Be sure to check out my brilliant cousin Katherine Bernard’s article on enclothed cognition at Vogue.com! She interviewed me (and my academic advisor, J. Timothy Cannon, Ph.D.) about the psychological underpinnings and social neuroscience at play when we choose what we wear and how the garments alter various self-perceived attributes—which can in turn impact our attitude, performance and behavior.
…In preliminary findings from a study published on the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’s website, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists. Their heightened focus was evident only when subjects actually put on the coat in question (not merely when they were in the same room). It’s no secret that assembling an outfit is like selecting social armor, and that what we wear has power over others (if there weren’t truth to the cliché “lady in red,” designers wouldn’t be making so many scarlet dresses), but this study shows if you have a strong cultural association with a garment, wearing it can affect your cognitive processes… To explore this theory, Vogue asked several women—in careers ranging from art to e-commerce to politics—what pieces in their closets helped them bring their A-game to work… Model and psychology student Julia Frakes always gravitates toward Prada for interviews, and has a go-to brand for test taking: “I wore Marni when I took my Wechsler exam [designed to measure adult intelligence]. I swear Marni increases one’s self-perceived intelligence levels.” Suffice it to say, Frakes scored a high performance IQ. So, tell the skeptics: Your closet isn’t frivolous, it contains a myriad of channels to heightened performance, a selection of gateways to the best versions of yourself. As Jonathan Lethem said in his novel You Don’t Love Me Yet: “You can’t be deep without a surface.”