If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement. So scientists report after studying a phenomenon they call enclothed cognition: the effects of clothing on cognitive processes.
The findings, on the Web site of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are a twist on a growing scientific field called embodied cognition. We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.
“I love the idea of trying to figure out why, when we put on certain clothes, we might more readily take on a role and how that might affect our basic abilities,” said Joshua I. Davis, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College and expert on embodied cognition who was not involved with the study. This study does not fully explain how this comes about, he said, but it does suggest that it will be worth exploring various ideas.
As I said before, there was always a reason behind KYM’s white lab coats that went beyond mere costume.