Can dressing up make you more creative?

Can dressing up make you more creative?

recent study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal placed a new spin on the old expression, “dress for success,” and reports that dressing up can enhance a person’s ability to engage in abstract, or broad thinking.

Researchers conducted five independent experiments on a group of college-aged men and women to study exactly how formal wear changes the way a person thinks. The participants completed tests that analyzed whether they demonstrated more abstract (broad) or concrete (narrow) thought processing.

“Dressing up can greatly boost a person’s self-esteem,” says Dr. Pradeep Thapar, psychiatrist on staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “That increased confidence will certainly have an effect on their thinking process.”

In one experiment, students were asked to rate how formal their outfit was before they completed a cognitive test. In other experiments, one group of students was asked to wear casual, comfy clothes, while the other group was asked to put on clothing one would wear to a job interview before they took the cognitive test.

Study results revealed participants thought more broadly and out-of-the-box when they were in formal clothing.

“Clothing strongly affects how you are perceived, which ultimately influences how someone responds to you,” says Dr. Thapar. “If you are dressed professionally and receive positive non-verbal cues from others, you will act more confident and feel comfortable enough to share creative answers and ideas.”

Researchers concluded that the formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision-making in important ways through its influence on processing style.

Dr. Thapar notes that clothing is just one of many factors that can influence a person’s thought process.

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  1. Research on college-aged students only???? This research is trash…

  2. Lourdes Guerrero June 5, 2015 at 11:28 am · Reply

    I have to ask the same question…How about professionals who’ve been working tin their fields for many years. As an artist (for over 40 years), arts advocate, and recently retired art teacher, I thought this question (Can dressing-up make you more creative) was very interesting. But the research referred to in this article is pretty thin. How about making the statement (based upon this research) that STUDENTS may become more creative when dressing up? This way you’ve defined your subjects and maybe inspire other researchers to expand upon the work.

  3. Your author and the psychiatrist ‘expert’ quoted in the story both screwed up here. This article is an example of the kind of overgeneralizing that I hate in journal articles. The conclusions should be *much* more narrowly drawn. The results apply only to college students because those are the only people involved in the study. Working adults, especially those who have been in the workplace for many years, may experience a different result. This might be particularly true for professionals, who have to wear businesslike clothing at work all the time; in fact, for them a very severe dress code might actually be inhibiting. Perhaps wearing colors that are a bit more flamboyant or a suit that is more fashionably cut might provide a boost in creativity or critical thinking — or not. Other researchers ought to test all that in a more comprehensive study. But the results of this particular study are relevant to college kids only!! I can well believe that for them, sloppy dress equals sloppy thinking!

    • Julie Nakis

      Hello, thank you for your comments. The goal of our site is to take news and headlines in the media and have our experts give their opinions. We will certainly be on the lookout for future studies on this topic that include all age groups.
      Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.