For those of us who live most our lives in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers, having to deviate from that norm seems kind of daunting.
While that way of dressing might be demonstrably more comfortable, it's possible those clothes may be keeping you from reaching your full potential.
Results from a new California State University study suggest those who dress more formally can actually change the way they perceive the world around them.
The simple act of wearing a suit can make people feel more powerful, creating an instant makeover inside and out.
The researchers studied a group of college students, scoring them on how they performed on tasks testing abstract thought, and how formal they thought their clothing was.
The first two trials didn't have clear results, because few students dress formally on a regular basis. In the next trials, however, some of the participants were asked to wear suits before taking the tests.
The students who subsequently wore suits and felt better about their appearance, increased their ability to solve the abstract tests. This meant they were better able to see the big picture, and stop worrying about the details of the problem.
Ultimately, it all boils down to confidence.
Formal wear, such as suits, typically make people feel more confident and in control. The neurological pathways that are responsible for these types of feelings overlap with the areas of the brain that are better, ahem, suited for thinking about the big picture.
While putting on a suit doesn't automatically make you a leader, it certainly helps start the thought process.
As thoughts influence actions, however, a person could effectively reinvent themselves by walking the walk and talking the talk of those more powerful and successful than their current status.
Scientists have known for a few years that people in a position of power typically have higher levels of abstract thought, while the ones who work beneath them are better suited to detail-oriented, concrete thinking. Of course, both roles are important and need to be filled by people who excel at that line of work.
Those looking to advance in their field, however, could benefit from dressing up, and starting to think along the lines of those who are typically in charge.
As it turns out, the old adage, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have," appears to have been right all along.
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