Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of What You Wear

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The following are a few things that I learned from reading Mind What You Wear. My thoughts are incomplete, but I’m going to publish it anyways.

  1. What you wear (or do not wear) can affect your mental performance

In the book, Dr. Pine discusses two studies that were conducted regarding students testing abilities.


In the first study, a group of girls were asked to take a math test. One group took the test in their normal everyday clothes, while the other group took the test in their swimsuits. The result of the test showed that those girls in swimsuits scored significantly worse then their counterparts. The following are excerpts from the book explaining the reasoning behind their loss in performance:

“Women are socialized to adopt observers’ perspectives on their physical selves. What does this mean? Since women’s bodies are constantly being evaluated in the eyes of others — particularly the eyes of men—this leads women to adopt the observers’ perspectives on their own bodies. To look at their body as men would. This in turn leads them to judge and compare their bodies with an idealized image.

“A possible clinical consequence of this, is body shame and restrained eating. But Frederickson also pointed out that body objectification preoccupies women to a degree that affects their mental performance.”

In summary, what the girls were wearing was consciously or subconsciously affecting the their ability to fully concentrate on the task at hand.

Lab coats

In the second story, a group of students were again given a test. This time, however, instead of shedding clothing, some of them were asked to put on a lab coat. The test results showed that those who wore the lab coat performed quicker and made fewer mistakes than those who did not. Interestingly, a third group was not only given a white lab coat but additionally told that the coat was a “doctor’s coat.” This small bit of information further improved their mental performance.

Again, excerpts explaining the reasoning:

“The benefits of wearing the coat only affected certain cognitive processes, those required to do well on this particular type of test. Wearing a doctor’s coat did not suddenly render the participants able to diagnose illnesses or cure patients. However it shows that simply putting on an item of clothing brings about a subtle but significant shift in thought processes. And that’s a very powerful message.”

  1. Dress like a superhero.
image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz7cw6jbwFY

“You know the message you’re sending out to the world with those sweatpants? You’re telling the world, ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.”