In the field of social psychology, a new development, which is described as embodied cognition, is rising. It wants to show that it is not just the brain that is at work in cognitive processing. Rather our whole bodily perception forms the basis for the abstract concepts we use every day. A recent example for this idea is an experiment, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, which contested so-called ‘enclothed cognition’. This basically means that the way we are dressed influences our cognitive processes.
In a study composed of three related experiments, the researchers asked undergraduate students to perform several attention tasks. In the first test, only half of the 58 participants were asked to wear a lab coat. This group turned out to perform significantly better on a selective attention task. In the second and third experiment, 74 students were randomly assigned to one of three options: wearing a white coat which was said to be a doctor’s coat, wearing a similar white coat that was said to be a painter’s coat, or simply seeing a doctor’s coat.
As it turned out, only physically wearing a doctor’s coat increased performance on sustained attention tasks, like writing an essay. Just seeing one slightly increased the results, but not as strong as actually wearing it. According to Dr. Galinsky, one of the authors of the article, this result shows that enclothed cognition is based on both the symbolic meaning of certain clothes and the physical experience of wearing these.
Adam, Hajo and Adam J. Galinsky (2012). Enclothed cognition Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008
By Lizabeth Dijkstra