Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Clothes can invade our body and brain...

Adam and Galinsky offer an interesting variant of studies on embodied cognition, a topic that MindBlog has frequently visited (35 postings, see left column) - showing that clothing can invade our body and brain, putting us into a different psychological state. After citing numerous studies of how clothes we wear have power over others, they do a discrete experiment to demonstrate a power of clothing over ourselves, specifically the power and accuracy of our attention:

We introduce the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes. We offer a potentially unifying framework to integrate past findings and capture the diverse impact that clothes can have on the wearer by proposing that enclothed cognition involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors—the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. As a first test of our enclothed cognition perspective, the current research explored the effects of wearing a lab coat. A pretest found that a lab coat is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness. We therefore predicted that wearing a lab coat would increase performance on attention-related tasks. In Experiment 1, physically wearing a lab coat increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat. In Experiments 2 and 3, wearing a lab coat described as a doctor's coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing a lab coat described as a painter's coat, and compared to simply seeing or even identifying with a lab coat described as a doctor's coat. Thus, the current research suggests a basic principle of enclothed cognition—it depends on both the symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing the clothes.

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