In the wake of the workplace revolution encouraged by companies like Google, where dress codes and stuffy rules are replaced by game rooms and rest areas, suits have become a very unfashionable way to dress for work in many industries and locales.
However, recent research conducted at Columbia University and California State University, Northridge, and published in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science shows that dressing up for the workday might not be a bad idea after all. In fact, the more formal your clothing – the more you tend to think out of the box.
The research found that a worker’s outfit had an impact on cognitive processing style, with fancier clothing equalling more abstract cognitive processing. “Wearing formal clothing leads to more big-picture thinking, rather than concrete thinking that focuses on the details,” explained co-author Michael Slepian, a postdoc researcher at Columbia Business School.
The study involved college-age volunteers of both sexes who underwent tests to rate their cognitive processing style. Before taking the tests, the subjects were directed to wear “work” clothing or “job interview” clothing. Results of the study showed that subjects who wore more formal attire displayed broader, more creative thinking.
“Formal clothing made people feel more powerful, which in turn made them more likely to adopt high-level, abstract thinking,” explained Slepian said.