Enclothed Cognition and Its Effect on Your Life

Enclothed cognition serves as a term many people remain unfamiliar with. However, it gained attention when Ray Smith reported on this phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal during the global pandemic. What exactly is this, and what do men and women need to know when someone speaks of enclothed cognition? 

What is Enclothed Cognition? 

Hajo Ada and Adam Galinksy, cognitive psychologists at Northwestern University, have been studying the effects of clothing on the wearer. They want to know more about how clothing affects a person’s thoughts and performance as they progress throughout the day. To obtain this information, they are studying the influence a person’s clothing has on their psychological processes. This research falls under a broader field of study known as embodied cognition. 

Researchers studying embodied cognition have learned that an individual’s thought processes are rooted in physical experiences they have had. These experiences have become associated with abstract concepts, such as concepts generated by their outfit. These researchers have found that the clothing a person wears can enhance their psychological state and improve their performance. According to Dr. Galinksy, a person can focus their attention more simply by choosing certain items when getting dressed, as these items have a symbolic meaning. 

Why is This Important? 

When a woman is shopping for charm necklaces, she may wish to pick certain charms to help improve her performance. Scientists learned long ago that a person who dresses up for work performs better. In fact, one study conducted in 2015 found that people who dress more formally for their job are better able to see an abstract big picture. Sadly, with more people working from home now, many people choose to bypass their normal business wear and put on something casual and comfortable. Zoom meetings tend to be dominated by clothing people wear around their house rather than out and about with others. 

People often assume other men and women buy brand-name clothing as a status symbol or as a means to impress others. Actually, enclothed cognition plays a role in these purchases. When a person feels down, they may pull out the clothing, a fancy piece of jewelry, or a special handbag. Using or wearing the item gives them a lift when they need it and makes their entire day better as a result. 

The Effect of Zoom Meetings

Vanessa Bohns serves as an associate professor of organization behavior at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She tells individuals they need to get up every morning and dress as if they are going into the workplace. By doing so, they shift their thinking into work mode. The clothing makes the person feel different and sends a signal to the mind that it is time to work. 

Dr. Galinksy, however, does point out that a person should not overdo it with the formal wear. Some people find putting on a three-piece suit or a dress with all the accessories could leave them feeling distracted and self-conscious. Furthermore, a person should change out of their work clothes when their work duties are done. This lets the brain know it is time to relax. 

Is Enclothed Cognition a New Thing? 

Men and women may believe enclothed cognition is a new fad, but nothing is further from the truth. In fact, John T. Molloy wrote Dress for Success in 1975, a book that explained how a person’s clothing choices could affect their business and personal lives. This book led to the creation of the Dress for Success organization. This organization works to empower women and help them achieve economic independence. The organization provides females with professional attire, development tools, and a support network. 

The Right Mindset

As people learned upon reading this book, an individual’s clothing choices affect their mindset. Showing up at a work meeting or college class in pajamas shows others that the person isn’t serious about the day’s activities. However, it also tells the person wearing the pajamas that it is okay to slack off. By choosing clothing for the occasion, a person goes into the day with the right mindset. 

Keep this in mind and don’t sleep in until five minutes before logging on to a zoom call. Get up, shower, get dressed, and add a few accessories. The simple act of taking these steps leads to a more productive day in every way. 

When Enclothed Cognition Doesn’t Work?

Nevertheless, there are situations where enclothed cognition fails. A person cannot dress outside of their comfort zone and expect a transformation in their personality. Although they may feel better for a short period, they quickly come to feel as if they are wearing a costume. Don’t overdo it. Find those pieces you feel comfortable in and wear them to change your mindset. If you don’t normally wear a three-piece business suit for work or a slinky dress for a night on the town, don’t do so when you are feeling down. 

Nevertheless, if you would like to be able to wear this clothing, slowly ease into doing so. By taking it step-by-step, you’ll find you can make the transition to a new one with confidence. Use the following guidelines to make enclothed cognition work for you. 

Enclothed Cognition Guidelines

Don’t dress for others. Never wear clothing to manipulate others. The goal is to embody the quality you wish to convey. When a person’s presence fails to work, their outfit won’t be of any help. 

Remain self-aware at all times. Determine the inner need and choose a quality to compensate for it. When someone is feeling down, a loud print dress will leave them feeling disoriented. It’s best to go with a cashmere top that provides tactile comfort instead.  

Don’t overdo it. As mentioned above, a person needs to ease into a new look. There are times when a person should dress down, as doing so provides them with much-needed comfort during a difficult time. Take a break when needed and dress as casual as you desire. You deserve it. 

As you dress each day, keep enclothed cognition in mind. Choose every piece of your outfit carefully, right down to the toe ring that peeks out from under your maxi dress. Your clothing helps determine how you feel, so don’t rush this process. With the right outfit, you can change your outlook on life. 

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