You are what you wear

Usual knowledge is that what you are wearing has some influence on the perception of your interlocutors.   When visiting a therapist, would you  trust more the one  in shorts and torn tee shirt than the one formally dressed?   But  do your clothes have some influences on your behavior?

This is what ADAM Hajo and GALINSKY Adam  explored in their paper “Enclothed cognition”.  And their findings are interesting.

Yet, the clothes we wear have power not only over others, but also over ourselves.

Clothes have influence on our behavior and even efficiency!  To prove that, they set up an experiment comparing the respective performance on completing a task between people wearing a white labcoat and people without the labcoat.   The first group performed better than the second group.

We posit that wearing clothes causes people to “embody” the clothing and its symbolic meaning.

This is even more interesting.  It is actually not the cloth itself but rather its symbolic meaning that impacts the wearer.  In another experiment, they created three groups;  the first group wore  a white labcoat that was announced to be for doctors.  The second group wore the same white labcoat but this time it was announced to be for painters.   The third group did not wear any labcoat.   The first group consistently performed better than the two other groups.   The people wearing a “painter” labcoat performed not better than people without a labcoat.

How is that related to security?   SOCIAL ENGINEERING!  We already knew that  you’d better be dressed in a way consistent with is expected from the role you are try to mimic. This helps to trick the target and to create good ground for trust;  here clearly, clothes carry a strong symbolic meaning that influences the victim.  Uniforms carry a message of order, authority and strength.  Labcoats carry a meaning of science, and expertise. ..   It seems that these clothes may also help the social engineer to  perform better his “supposed” role. 

By the way, in our daily life, could this trick help to boost our performances?


H. Adam and A.D. Galinsky, “Enclothed cognition,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 48, Jul. 2012, pp. 918–925 available at

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