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Influence of Clothes on Emotions and Attitude

By Destiny Mercado


Clothes are an integral part of our lives and, as such, influence how we behave, how we appraise the people we meet and with whom we interact. We tend to wear particular clothes during certain times and particular situations. For example, a white gown and a gentleman's suit is mostly associated with weddings; therefore, when one wears them, the surrounding population will most definitely associate that with a wedding, celebration and happiness.


According to a study by Adam and Galinsky (2012) in Enclothed Cognition, which explored the effect clothing has upon a person's mental process and the way they think, feel and function, in areas like attention, confidence or abstract thinking, they state, “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”.


Clothes, therefore, affect people's attitudes and emotions. People tend to choose their clothes based on their mood. There are clothes worn when a person is low or going through challenging situations that affect them emotionally, mentally or physically. For example, during menstruation, women experiencing excruciating physical pain want to wear casual, comfortable clothes.


On the flip side, when elated, excited, in high spirits, full of confidence or out on dates, baggy clothes go out the window and smart, well-fitting clothes may increase confidence and heighten the lively mood one associates with feeling well. For men, on such occasions, warm and cool clothes may be desirable.


Colour also influences attitude. Black clothes are mostly worn for funerals or formal occasions of a serious nature, while white clothes are often worn during the summer when people are lively and would want lighter clothing. The same can be said for bikinis for women.


Clothes influence attitude. Similarly, our own attitudes and emotions affect the choice of what we wear. This choice forms part of why certain professions wear certain dress codes, and therefore people relate to it that way. It's also why people fit in certain types of settings just by what they wear.



Image credit: Mazelle Studio

Reference: Enclothed cognition

July 2012Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48(4):918–925

DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008