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Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Realize They’re Affected By Enclothed Cognition

Most people would agree that looking good and feeling good go hand-in-hand. It’s not only because you’re more confident when others approve of your appearance. You can thank the enclothed cognition phenomenon for influencing your thought processes depending on what you’re wearing. What exactly is enclothed cognition, and how does it affect human behavior whether we realize it or not?

Enclothed cognition is a term used to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes. In other words, when we consciously wear something that holds symbolic meaning to us, we tend to behave differently. The most obvious example is the power suit. Studies show that wearing formal clothing makes people think more broadly and often elicits feelings of power, often changing mental processes. Meanwhile, changing into pajamas subconsciously sends the message that it’s time to wind down for the day.

We wanted to investigate whether or not people are in denial about the fact that their clothes influence how they think. We ran a survey of over 4,000 respondents that revealed some interesting insights:

  1. 46% of Americans claim their daily clothing choices don’t affect how they feel emotionally
  2. Only 22% of men believe in enclothed cognition, compared to 35% of women
  3. 43% of Americans believe the clothes they wear affect their performance at work

    Let’s unpack some of this data and look into just how much of a mental/emotional connection Amercians have with their clothing choices.

    Roughly half of Americans say they don't feel emotionally affected by their clothing choices

    About half of our survey respondents claimed they don’t feel emotionally affected by their clothing choices, even though studies consistently show that enclothed cognition is real. Are people simply unaware of how they’re being influenced by their clothing choices? 

    One interesting point to remember is that enclothed cognition requires you to believe the clothing you’re wearing has symbolic meaning. If our survey respondents aren’t required to wear uniforms, suits, lab coats, etc. for work, and don’t associate any meaning with their clothes, the phenomenon might not seem relevant to them. 

    Meanwhile, dressing casually could cause an employee to feel less focused and alert according to psychology professor and fashion psychologist Dr. Karen Pine. It’s safe to say your clothing impacts your thinking to some extent, whether you’re cognizant of it or not.

    43% of Americans feel their work attire affects their work performance

    Forty-three percent of our survey respondents said they feel like their outfit choice affects their work performance. Do people feel more productive or decisive when they dress up? If an employee’s attire impacts their work ethic or negotiating skills, corporate dress codes could be a good idea. 

    Nevertheless, more companies than ever before are encouraging casual dress codes. In fact, casual dress is now the norm at 50% of US companies. 

    The majority of American men don’t believe in the concept of enclothed cognition

    Based on our survey findings, there’s a stark difference between American men and women’s belief in the enclothed cognition phenomenon. Fifty-three percent of men claim they aren’t emotionally affected by their clothing choices, when in fact there is a proven connection to how clothes make them think and feel. Only 22% of men admitted that their daily outfit influences how they feel. 

    Meanwhile, women are more likely to believe what they wear for the day impacts their emotional/mental state, with almost 35% making the clothing-mind connection. 

    To Wrap It Up…

    Does your outfit choice impact how you approach situations and interact with the people? Our survey showed that 46% of people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that their emotions are affected by clothing, but 43% can admit their work performance is different depending on what they wear. Whether or not they’re consciously aware of it, people are following the enclothed cognition phenomenon.

    The bottom line is that enclothed cognition is a real phenomenon and we can use it to our advantage if we’re aware of it. Even if you don’t feel like hitting the gym, make the effort to change into your favorite workout clothes and see how you feel in an hour or two. Put on your favorite loungewear as soon as you walk in the door after a long day at work to mentally switch into a more relaxed state. Enclothed cognition isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so you might as well make the best of it.

    Methodology

    We used Google Surveys to analyze data resulting from asking two questions to a total of over 4,000 respondents. 

    Sources: The Atlantic | Science Direct | Forbes | Scientific American | Quartz | Curiosity.com | Vogue | Positive Psychology News | Digest BPS