I will introduce the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. Providing a potentially unifying framework to integrate past findings and capture the diverse impact that clothes can have on the wearer, enclothed cognition involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors—the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them.
I will present a first test of our enclothed cognition perspective in which my co-author and I examined the effects of wearing a lab coat in a series of studies. 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. I will discuss theoretical and practical implications as well as potential avenues for future research.