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Are there any studies on links between clothing style and personality?

Are there any studies on links between clothing style and personality?

Reading about on personality psychology, I have met several vague claims that different personality types prefer different clothing styles.

  • Apparently, people who are more keen to their senses will prefer softer clothes.
  • People who highly value order and efficiency have been said to prefer a more formal clothing style.

Are there any research studies to support such claims? (I'm looking for links to scientific reports)


The Psychology of Fashion

Your fashion style can determine if you ace that interview and get that dream job. Once you are on the job, your wardrobe can determine if you get more responsibility and get promoted. Your clothing choices can make or break your career, your ability to make friends, and develop the romantic relationships that you seek.

Just as dress radiates outward to your surroundings, it also moves inward. How you dress affects your mood. Your wardrobe choices have a psychological impact. Karen Pine demonstrates in her book Mind What You Wear that there is a science behind fashion and that psychology and fashion are indeed linked.

&ldquoFashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.&rdquo &mdash Vivienne Westwood

A bidirectional relationship

Our clothes impact how we feel and how we feel influences what we choose to wear. In some cultures, a woman is more likely to wear jeans if she is depressed (Pine, 2012). Patients trust a doctor more if he is wearing a white coat, and people show more mental agility if they are told the white coat they are wearing is a physician&rsquos lab coat compared to if they are told it is a painter&rsquos smock (Pine, 2014).

In the discipline of psychology, we focus on risk factors, behaviors, and emotional states. We know that fashion has always played a significant role in reflecting (and sometimes reinforcing) the mental attitudes, political culture and gender roles of the day. Think of how important a woman&rsquos clothing is according to the religious and cultural environment she lives in. Think of how this might impact her sense of self. While more academic research is needed to better understand the impact of clothing and fashion on behavior and emotions, our lived experience tells us that there is a strong effect.

&ldquoOur bodies matter, they are in fact an extension of our self. They are part of the environment we live in&rdquo (Shah, 2012).

Fashion choices are part of growth and self expression for adolescents

It seems that all parents face, at some point, the question of &ldquoshould I let my adolescent wear whatever they want?&rdquo

Fashion choices reflect growth, changing values, and self expression. Young people want to dress in a way that reflects their values and traits. They want to have the agency to express themselves through their fashion choices. Fashion is important as youth go through the stages of psychosocial development and is an integral part of the development of a sense of self and a way of finding social confirmation (Venkatasamy, 2015).

Final thoughts

There is a reason fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry today. What we wear affects how we feel about ourselves and others.

The next time you choose what to wear, think about why you chose that outfit. Allow more understanding for others when considering why they dress the way they do. And most of all, use the opportunity to have fun and bring pleasure into your life. Self care is an important aspect of mental health. Looking and feeling good is not just an advertising slogan, it is a viable aspect to your wellbeing.

Pine, K. J. (2014). Mind what you wear: The psychology of fashion. Self-published. E-book .


  • How does temperament relate to creativity? Are people with certain temperaments more or less creative? For your project, you might try administering scales measuring temperament and creativity to a group of participants.
  • Are certain personality traits linked to prosocial behaviors? Consider how traits such as kindness, generosity, and empathy might be associated with altruism and heroism.
  • How do personality assessments compare? Consider comparing common assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and the 16PF Questionnaire.
  • Do people tend to marry individuals with similar personalities?
  • What impact does birth order have on personality? Are first-born children more responsible, and are last-borns less responsible?
  • Is there a connection between personality types and musical tastes? Do people who share certain personality traits prefer the same types of music?
  • Are people who participate in athletics more likely to have certain personality characteristics? Compare the personality types of athletes versus non-athletes.
  • Are individuals with high self-esteem more competitive than those with low self-esteem? Do those with high self-esteem perform better than those who have lower self-esteem?
  • Is there a correlation between personality type and the tendency to cheat on exams? Are people low in conscientiousness more likely to cheat? Are extroverts or introverts more liable to cheat?
  • How do personality factors influence a person's use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Are individuals who use social media frequently more or less extroverted?
  • How does Type A behavior influence success in school? Are people who exhibit Type A characteristics more likely to succeed?
  • Is there a connection between a person's personality type and the kind of art they like?
  • Do people tend to choose pets based on their personality types? How do the personalities of dog owners compare to those of cat owners?

Once you find a suitable research topic, you might be tempted just to dive right in and get started. However, there are a few important steps you need to take first.

Most importantly, be sure to run your topic idea past your instructor, particularly if you are planning to conduct an actual experiment with human participants. In most cases, you will need to gain your instructor's permission and possibly submit your plan to your school's human subjects committee to gain approval.  


How Clothing Choices Affect and Reflect Your Self-Image

Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence. Scientists call this phenomenon "enclothed cognition", and Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, write that enclothed cognition "involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors -- the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them." The researchers had subjects perform tests while wearing a lab coat like medical doctors wear, a coat like painters wear, and while not wearing either coat. They found that subjects' sustained attention increased while wearing the doctors' coats in a way that their attention did not increase while wearing the painters' coats or no coats.

Similarly, Professor Karen J. Pine, of the University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) writes in her very short book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion "When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it." In the studies Pine conducted, as related in her book, one participant admitted, "If I'm in casual clothes I relax and am tomboyish, but if I dress up for a meeting or a special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself."

That is what Lisa Stariha, The Body Empowerment Coach, tries to instill her in clients. She says it is so important to "Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day." Stariha, who often works from her home office, knows how comfortable it can be to work in yoga pants and a cozy shirt. But, she says, "to feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the yoga pants and put on clothes that give you power," just as Wonder Woman went from her Diana Prince uniform to her kick-butt Wonder Woman costume.

How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things my co-authors, Jean Otte and Rosina L. Racioppi and I mentioned in our book WOMEN Are Changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. And Business Insider says that clothes don't just affect your confidence levels, they can affect your success, as "clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you."

In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume. For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average Joe, with, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 56,000 people claiming that as their occupation in 2014. Kim Peterson, of Uniquely Savvy, helps people champion themselves through personal brand and style analysis, body and color analysis, wardrobe analysis, personal shopping, and virtual style consulting for individuals, and more progressive businesses bring Kim in to do workshops for their employees on these self-empowerment topics.

So the next time you reach for those yoga pants or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?


Kaitlin Luna: Welcome to Speaking of Psychology , a bi-weekly podcast from the American Psychological Association. I'm your host Kaitlin Luna.

The clothes we put on every day tell a story about who we are to the world and can have a major impact on our emotions and mood. So where does psychology fit into all this, and how does it help us solve some of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry now and in the future? Our guest for this episode is Dr. Carolyn Mair, a cognitive psychologist who created the Psychology of Fashion department at the London College of Fashion at the University of Arts London as well as an undergraduate program and two master's degree programs there. Dr. Mair is currently a consultant for fashion brands and recently published a book called the “Psychology of Fashion.” Welcome Dr. Mair.

Carolyn Mair: Thank you very much Kaitlin it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Kaitlin Luna: We're happy to have you. How did you get into this field?

Carolyn Mair: I've always been interested in fashion, and my first job was a window dresser, visual merchandiser as it's known now. I did that for four years, absolutely loved it and then I did several other creative jobs. Making clothes for people, making clothes myself and so on and then when I got into my 30s and I had three children I decided it was time to get a degree. So, I did my undergraduate degree in applied psychology and computing. Then I did a master's in research methods and then I was very fortunate to be able to have a funded PhD studentship. So, after my PhD I really wanted to work in the applied field of psychology because my PhD was so theoretical, and I worked for seven years in an ordinary psychology department as a senior lecturer and then became a professor. And then I was at a conference and I met somebody from London College of Fashion and when I asked him if there were only psychologists there he said there weren't and that I should come into a paper there. And so I gave a paper at London College of Fashion on the importance of psychology for fashion and I was invited back to discuss how I could bring psychology to the college and that was back in 2011. I started working there in 2012 and developed the master's courses and set up the department before I left in 2017.

Kaitlin Luna: Wow so you've had a lifelong interest in fashion and that became academic and now here you are having have set up this program at the college, that's wonderful.

Carolyn Mair: Thank you.

Kaitlin Luna: And you wrote in your book that there are very few psychologists in this field, so from your perspective why is it important to have psychologists researching and working in the fashion industry?

Carolyn Mair: Well the fashion industry is about people. It employs millions worldwide and everyone wears clothes. Clothes are the closest thing to our bodies, they're our second skin. And psychologists can help with loss of the issues that are known to be caused by the fashion industry. So for example the fashion industry has a poor reputation in terms of social responsibility and now coming to a head, and it's been around for four decades actually, are the issues about sustainability. So the fashion industry is one of the worst industries for damaging the environment and psychologists can help with this. They can help the consumers change their habits through developing behavior change programs, they can also work with employers to help them create workplaces that provide better conditions for their staff, and they can also help in predicting demands so that there's far less waste when the items are made. So currently fashion forecasters tend to work on intuition, gut feeling, sometimes they look at the historical cycles, but psychologists are well trained in data analysis and they will be able to predict fashion trends much better using data.

And of course, there's the obvious way that psychologists can work in the fashion industry and that's in consumer behavior. And consumers are becoming more and more demanding. They are wanting more than just to be satisfied. Customers now have fantastic opportunities for competition, for searching online and in-store so the retail companies, fashion retail companies, have to give consumers a fantastic experience and who better to help design a fantastic experience than psychologists.

Kaitlin Luna: You just touched on some very interesting issues regarding overconsumption and regarding the environment. So you cited an alarming statistic in your book as well that in the US about an estimated 15 million people have a spending addiction, so we know that overconsumption is clearly an issue. How can people break the cycle and consume more responsibly?

Carolyn Mair: Well it's a very difficult one because the way we shop becomes a habit and lots of, lots of us go shopping as a social pleasure, as a leisure pursuit, and so shopping becomes part of what we do, part of our identity. And also you know, we like novelty, we like fashion we want to look nice and enhance ourselves. But people can also change their habits through structured behavior change programs so they can learn to identify what are the habits, what are the triggers that encourage them to go out buy more, more, more, more. And quite often they don't wear these items and how can their habits be changed so that it's a win-win situation for them so they have more money in their pockets to enjoy experiences rather than material objects. And they can also do good for the environment by consuming less and contributing less to the landfill problem.

Kaitlin Luna: Is this something you're working on when you in your consulting work?

Carolyn Mair: Yes, so I'm currently working across so many issues within the fashion industry and it's just such an amazing opportunity to make a really important difference globally. So yes changing people's habits, looking at the communication that we put out as a business, looking at how we communicate with our staff and with our customers. Yeah so this is something that I've been doing as a consultant since 2017. Understanding that, you know, that consumers are people, and they have behavior and psychologists understand behavior. So as a cognitive psychologist looking at all the cognitive processes you know the way we think, the way we perceive, the way we understand the world to make sense of it, all these things, processes, that we do as human beings this is what psychologists can help the fashion industry, and then to be honest all industry, learn more about.

Kaitlin Luna: And you wrote a lot about fast fashion which we've touched on as well. The environmental impacts of this and the human impacts of it, how its created environmental and human rights problems and there has been some movement in a positive direction, it's more awareness of this but people are still suffering in sweatshops and landfills are still getting filled up with unused or unwanted clothing. What is needed to change this trend?

Carolyn Mair: Okay first of all, I think it's quite important that that this notion of fast fashion equals bad needs to be changed. So, lots of items which are not considered fast fashion are made in exactly the same factories under exactly the same conditions. The problem is not with fast fashion per se, the problem with is with overproduction and overconsumption that ends up in the landfill sites. There are problems with the working conditions with abuse of the workers, with human rights as you say and these need to be addressed at the local level because they the factories are typically run by people in the local communities and there is a lot of pressure on them to change and hopefully they will. When the pressure turns into voting with our wallets, which is, I think we're beginning to see that, people are buying less and being more mindful with what they buy. Then then the behavior of the factory owners and the retail companies will change accordingly and the pressure is coming from consumers now.

Kaitlin Luna: So you are seeing changes in the opposite direction where people are being more mindful about what they purchase and how much of it.

Carolyn Mair: Some pockets of the population yes for sure, but there are still people who want to consume a lot simply because it's cheap and in reality they probably spend as much as they would on five or six very cheap items as they would if they bought one more one expensive item, a more expensive item that they would actually wear and it would potentially last longer and they would value it more.

Kaitlin Luna: Do you think a solution is for people to purchase perhaps higher quality items? Sometimes that can mean more expensive items as opposed to those, you know, buying five t-shirts for the price of one nice shirt. Is that one way to alleviate the problem?

Carolyn Mair: Yes I think I think that makes perfect sense. Because you know buying five very similar items and four of them are unlikely to be worn is purely wasteful and because they're cheap they're probably not going to be sold or swapped or nobody was really going to want them secondhand anyway. So yeah, I would definitely say buy less, buy mindfully, enjoy the experience, but don't buy multiple items that you're not going to wear. Think about it at the point-of-sale, when are you going to wear this item or these items, do you really want to buy it and is it just gonna hang in your wardrobe with the tags still on it until you decide you don't want it anymore and find out that nobody else does either which is, it's just so wasteful.

Kaitlin Luna: So there does come a point in a lifecycle of a piece of clothing item where you might want to give it away or to donate it or something of that nature. Is that a good solution to give away your clothes, give them to charity, give them to friends?

Carolyn Mair: Yeah definitely anything that stops them going into landfill is good, recycling if the product can be recycled then fantastic. Sometimes the recycling process does quite a lot of harm to the environment as well. Separating different fabrics, different textiles is difficult and not always possible. But anything is better than putting your unwanted items in the bin that would go to landfill. So swapping, renting clothes is becoming more and more popular. Selling on a market, individuals selling their own clothes is also becoming popular, and lots of fashion brands, fast fashion I'm well aware of, I'm not sure that the higher end of the fashion market does this, is accepting bags of recyclable clothes that you don't want, previously loved clothes let's say, for recycling and they might be used if they can be separated out for recycling. Some are useful for stuffing other fabrics for rags and then some are sent on to other countries so there's some organizations that go around and buy unwanted used clothing. But this can be problematic because the used clothes might end up actually frustrating the development of the fashion industry in developing markets.

Kaitlin Luna: I want to turn now to mental health, and as you mentioned clothing conveys a lot about a person. So what does, how does what we put on our bodies every day influence our mental health?

Carolyn Mair: Well it's stressful for us if we don't feel comfortable in what we're wearing. If we're really worrying that it's appropriate or it's suitable or we don't feel confident in what we're wearing. It stresses us and this means that we don't have the cognitive capacity to deal with the problem at hand. This is why lots of very successful people tend to wear a work uniform in inverted commas, not necessarily as suits but it may be t-shirt and jeans as we've seen with Mark Zuckerberg who wears the same items every day to allow this freeing up of cognitive capacity for more important issues. And then you know for you or me this might mean going to a meeting wearing something that we've worn before and knowing that it's suitable or it's appropriate and we don't have to worry about that at that time.

Kaitlin Luna: I know there have been positive steps in the right direction but it still seems like everywhere we go we're bombarded with images that encourage us to consume fashion and that there's no way to escape it. How does that impact people's mental health?

Carolyn Mair: People generally buy far more than they need and probably to be honest, none of us probably needs to buy any more clothes ever. Research suggests that 80% of clothes in our wardrobe are unworn and that's quite worrying actually, as some people can become addicted to shopping and this can result in debt, in shame, in guilt and there's a move now to buy mindfully which we've discussed, and I would definitely agree with that. Buying too much is something that we really should avoid. When you buy less it seems like a win-win situation. You've got more money in your pocket to enjoy the experiences that bring more and lasting satisfaction and you're also doing less harm to the environment.

Kaitlin Luna: So throughout this interview you've mentioned several times about the importance of people being mindful of their purchases, and this move toward mindfulness is certainly wonderful in many ways. But how does that work within the fashion industry because they certainly need to generate profits. I mean they want to respond to their customers in terms of wanting to be understanding and receptive to being more mindful about fashion, but at the same time they also need to make money. So what are you seeing in terms of that tension that exists?

Carolyn Mair: I think once the fashion industry is more in tune with what the customers want, actually want rather than what they think they want, when they're more able to predict more accurately, so production on demand rather than full supply, then you know this affects profits more so than the selling. So much money is wasted on overproduction, so if that comes out of the equation, the company can still be profitable.

Kaitlin Luna: You mentioned in your book the pressure to produce for consumers is so high that people in the fashion industry often suffer from mental health issues like substance abuse, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. So what needs to change in the industry and are you seeing any movement in that direction, in a better direction?

Carolyn Mair: Well I think we're still waiting for some change in that. I mean the cycles of fashion have become shorter and shorter so where they used to be two seasons and perhaps a cruise collection there are now six, seven, ten. Some high street brands have new stock every week, some every two weeks, and the designers are just on a treadmill. And the ones who we've seen are the very famous high-end designers where it makes news when they have mental health problems or worse. But there's a whole industry behind them of designer's assistants and interns who don't make that publicity when they have mental health problems. And it's not, there isn't time to speak out about how you feel, there isn't that possibility really. And it's not just the designers, its models as well who, when there's a fashion week or on shoots, they have to be available from the early morning to late at night looking fantastic the whole time often like no time to eat or very little time to eat, no food available for them, and there are reports of models saying that they've not been treated very well at all, that they just treated like a, like a clothes hanger I suppose, and that they're not called by their names. Not all, and we see the very famous ones, the ones who have fantastic lifestyles, but again there are thousands of models who don't enjoy that kind of celebrity status whose mental health may well suffer. And it may be that the fashion industry attracts people who are susceptible to mental health problems because it's so creative, so dynamic, so exciting and the pressures are on not just to work but to be on form 24/7.

Kaitlin Luna: And on the flip side for consumers who see images of these impossibly thin and beautiful models, what does that do to a person's self-image and their positive feelings about themselves?

Carolyn Mair: There's quite a lot of research now which shows that even a very brief look at fashion imagery of thin models or airbrush models can damage a person's body satisfaction, so they feel worse about their body than they did before after a very brief exposure. And given that we're exposed to images of a fashion thousands of times in a week you know this is affecting most of us, and social media has a lot to answer for to be honest with the images that are on Instagram for example. So anyone who likes fashion is going to be following the people, the designers they like, the models they like, the influencers they like, on Instagram and most of them have a particular image which, you know, individuals want to aspire to, they aspire to be, but quite often are unattainable.

Kaitlin Luna: And what do you think needs to change in this area?

Carolyn Mair: Well the same as it across the whole industry. More diversity, more representation and not just on the other side of the camera but in front of the camera so more diversity in the workforce of the fashion industry and in their peripheral workforce so model agents and so on. So far, more representation of the populations that the fashion industry serves, and this isn't just about skin tone, it's about body type, body shape, ages, ability and just the whole range you know. As I said right at the start everyone wears clothes and everyone should be represented by the fashion industry.

Kaitlin Luna: Where do you see psychologists fitting into all this in terms of helping promote more inclusivity and diversity?

Carolyn Mair: Psychologists can run studies that test hypotheses that say that improving representation is good for the industry and good for the consumer and show the evidence, bring the evidence to the fashion industry. Psychologists can also help with the communities who are marginalized. And when psychologists work in the industry they can actually really show the industry and how beneficial it is to have a diverse workforce. I mean there's plenty of evidence for that already.

Kaitlin Luna: Absolutely, and turning to a more casual topic what are your thoughts today about people dressing more casually? I mean a lot of people wear active wear as everyday clothing and offices are becoming more casual in a lot of instances.

Carolyn Mair: Yeah I'm fine with that. You know, in London you can wear absolutely anything you want and nobody looks at all. I think it's great that people can wear whatever they want, whether that's active wear, casual wear to work. I think it's a really positive move. For lots of people working in a formal suit it doesn't represent their true selves or their self-identity and so they might struggle to do the kind of job that they want to do if they were free to choose what clothes they can wear. But me for example, I really don't like wearing suits and I would typically wear jeans, I'm wearing jeans now. Or jeans and a jumper, or jeans and a shirt, so yeah I think people should be allowed to dress in the way they want because the way we dress is part of our identity, part of who we are.

Kaitlin Luna: Yeah so is what you're saying is a more casual environment overall does help people's mental health I imagine. Because if they are expressing their authentic self as opposed to wearing a suit or uniform every day, probably feeling better yea.

Carolyn Mair: Exactly, they have the freedom to choose. And autonomy, again plenty of evidence to support this, giving people autonomy at work or in their lives in whichever aspect is possible, is a really positive element of people's life.

Kaitlin Luna: So people say often “dress for success,” does that hold water these days?

Carolyn Mair: It depends on the industry. Progressive industries success might be a pair of jeans and a cool t-shirt with a slogan of something. Still in finance it might be that you still have to wear a suit. When people ask me this question I would always say do some homework, find out what the next level in the hierarchy is wearing. What is the unwritten rule for that job, because you know if something is inappropriate or just considered not suitable by the person who might be hiring you, then however much you love it, it shows your identity, the person the hirer might believe that you're not really the right person for that job. In my opinion it shouldn't matter but it still does.

Kaitlin Luna: As a fashion psychologist, how do you approach your wardrobe?

Carolyn Mair: I like very plain casual clothes. I try to dress appropriately for a situation that I'm going to. Yeah I would say that I don't want clothes that shout, so I prefer clothes that don't say very much about them, so I'm not a logo wearer. Yeah typically quite plain clothes, often black or navy and in the summer maybe white, so I'm a quite plain dresser.

Kaitlin Luna: You know I've actually noticed that some of the biggest fashion designers you know will come out on the catwalk and they're wearing very simple, maybe black clothing. So is there any psychological reason why they might do that? Or are they trying to have an emphasis be on the clothes, of their other clothes that they're designing?

Carolyn Mair: Yes, it's almost an unwritten rule I think of the fashion industry, is black, almost like a modest dressing, quite loose fluid, gender fluid clothes. Yeah and that's been around for quite a while in the industry. It varies, I mean there are some fashion designers who dress quite, outrageously let's say, but yeah the majority I would say dress plainly. Perhaps yes as you say to not distract from the creations they've made on the catwalk.

Kaitlin Luna: It's always kind of struck me as interesting, someone who creates this like nearly dynamic outfit maybe it's colorful or something and then comes out and they're wearing maybe a black pants and a black shirt, sneakers or something like that, it's always a little jarring. I wanted to go back to, you mention about the workplace uniform and kind of a trend you might see like in the Silicon Valley or something where entrepreneurs wear casual clothes. Maybe they wear the same thing every day, that kind of thing. Is there anything behind that, you mentioned you people wanting to reserve cognitive resources, but is there any other, are there any psychological reasons why someone might want to wear a self-imposed uniform?

Carolyn Mair: It says something to the people who they are interacting with. For example it's not going to be any commentary around their clothes if they wear the same thing every day. So you know this issue with, oh wow, drawing attention to what they're wearing just won't happen if you wear the same thing every day. And perhaps that's why fashion designers and people who work in fashion wear a lot of black loose clothing because it doesn't say anything much about what they're wearing. But I think there's an important part about the cognitive resources, because if you're stressed about what you're wearing or if you're thinking about what you're wearing you don't have the capacity to think fully on the job at hand. You know worrying is it appropriate or have I dressed correctly for this meeting and then I'm going to another meeting. So I think a work uniform frees up time in the morning, you don't have to make decisions about what to wear for the day, but it's also very efficient at work because you won't get comments on what you're wearing. I would think it's rare that people would say oh you're wearing the same thing every day.

Kaitlin Luna: And do you think there's a lot of openings in the fashion industry for psychologists? You mentioned wanting to get more people in the field but do you think this is an area of study that you see growing in the future and opportunities for psychologists or people with a background in psychology or interest in psychology to find a way to use their knowledge in perhaps a different field than they expected?

Carolyn Mair: Absolutely, I think this year is a very interesting year for fashion retail. I think a lot of fashion retailers will struggle this year with the rising consumer demands and the rising competition and the rise of omni-channel shopping and so psychologists are suddenly being the people as well as tech people who are necessary in the fashion industry to understand all the processes that happen in the brain as well as all the social processes that happen between people. So consumers, fashion employees, and the peripheral people who work with fashion brands but are not actually part of the brands. And I think a huge opening will happen, and this takes time. So the course has only started recruiting in 2014. But I would say in a couple of years' time there's gonna be great demand for psychologists working in the fashion industry and I really feel it's important that people who work in the fashion industry as psychologists have psychology training and don't just feel that because they're human that they are psychologists. I think this is really really important because psychologists are also trained in ethics and understanding that, you know, people are vulnerable and sort of making claims about what happens because this all that can backfire with people who are not able to handle the outcomes of something for example. So I'm really conscious of some people wanting to work in the fashion industry as psychologists who have little or no understanding or training of psychology.

Kaitlin Luna: And going off what you just mentioned about ethics, there's been some scandals from recent brands like Gucci and Prada who've had issues with race and cultural sensitivity issues. So how can psychologists contribute to helping brands in this manner?

Carolyn Mair: Well, psychologists can help they because they need to help brands become more diverse in the areas of design, in their thinking, in their communications. Because this is an issue of lack of diversity as much as it's an ethical issue and a racist issue. So the lack of awareness by these brands is clearly shocking. And running diversity programs, implicit bias training to overcome the biases that people have, and also getting people on the ground actually working with the communities who these brands serve. It's beyond defensive and you know I think the brands have to hold their hands up when they've done something that is offensive. You know it all comes down to diversity, but the ethics is across the board and it needs to be implicit in everything that a brand does. So, you know, we're seeing with more data use the ethics of that has to be really seriously considered.

Kaitlin Luna: From your perspective what is the future of the fashion industry?

Carolyn Mair: Well I think the fashion industry is going to diversify not only in terms of its workforce or it's symmetry but in terms of its products, in terms of its services, because if we really are going to be buying less and it still needs to make a profit it needs to do that somehow. I think the fashion industry is also going to need to work with other disciplines, it's already working with AI and tech, it will be working far more with materials scientists, creating biodegradable textiles that can be woven easily and laundered and cared for but also can be recycled in a way that doesn't harm the environment. The fashion industry will of course be working with more psychologists and apologists. I think it's going to be an industry that in the past has been very much design based and business based that we will see the necessity, like neuroscience, for working with lots of different disciplines and actually appreciating the value of the diversity of disciplines within the industry, it's gonna make it far richer.

Kaitlin Luna: Thank you so much for joining us Dr. Mair, really appreciate your time.


Introducing "enclothed cognition" – how what we wear affects how we think

Whether donning a suit for an interview or a sexy outfit for a date, it’s obvious that most of us are well aware of the power of clothing to affect how other people perceive us. But what about the power of our clothes to affect our own thoughts?

Relevant to this question is the growing “embodied cognition” literature showing that the position and state of our bodies can affect our thoughts – for example, cleaning their hands makes people feel morally purer. In a new study Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky propose that clothes can have similar effects on our thoughts – a phenomenon they call “enclothed cognition”. In contrast to embodied cognition effects which are fairly direct, the researchers think enclothed cognition effects will depend on two conditions – first, the symbolic meaning of the clothing and second, the actual wearing of the clothes.

To test this idea, the researchers focused on the power of white coats, synonymous with scientists and their attention to detail. In an initial study, 58 students took part in a test of their powers of selective attention known as the Stroop Test (on critical trials, the ink colour of a word must be named whilst ignoring the colour meaning of the word, e.g. RED written in blue ink). Half the students performed the task in a scientist’s white lab coat (they were told that this was to be consistent with previous participants who’d taken part during building work and worn the coat for protection). The other students just wore their own clothes. The key finding – students in the lab coats made half as many errors on the critical trials of the Stroop Test.

The researchers next wanted to test their proposal that enclothed cognition effects depend on the symbolic meaning of clothes and actually wearing them. For these studies, the participants completed sustained attention tests that involved spotting differences between two similar images. Participants who donned a lab coat performed significantly better than others who merely saw a lab coat on the desk (thus suggesting the enclothed effect is more powerful than mere priming) or others who wore the same kind of coat but were told it belonged to a painter.

Is the enclothed effect about some kind of identification with the clothing? It seems it is more than that. For a final study, participants who wore a lab coat performed better on the sustained attention task than those who wore no coat but wrote an essay about how they identified with a lab coat. In turn, those who wrote the essay performed better than participants who wore a painter’s coat.

“Clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers,” the researchers said. Future research, they suggested, could examine the effects of other types of clothing: might the robe of a priest make us more moral? Would a firefighter’s suit make us more brave? “Although the saying goes that clothes do not make the man,” the researchers concluded, “our results suggest they do hold a strange power over their wearers.”

As well as building on the embodied cognition literature, these new findings also chime with recent “positive contagion” research showing that amateur golfers’ performance improved, and their perception of the hole changed, when they thought they were playing with a putter that belonged to a professional.

_________________________________


Adam, H., and Galinsky, A. (2012). Enclothed Cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008 (thanks to Marc Brysbaert for the tip-off).


National Character Stereotypes

Perhaps one of the most scientifically and socially valuable contributions of aggregate personality scores has been their use as criteria to evaluate the accuracy of national character stereotypes. Many Europeans, and perhaps people from other parts of the world, seem to agree that Italians are passionate, the Swiss are punctual, and Germans are well-organized (Peabody, 1985). Similar ideas about the traits of the typical member of a culture can be found everywhere, but are these beliefs accurate? Are views of national character the result of direct observation of the members of a culture, or are they a reflection of the socioeconomic conditions, climate, history, customs, and values?

We recently addressed such questions by gathering data from 3,989 respondents in 49 cultures around the world who completed the National Character Survey (NCS), a new measure consisting of 30 bipolar scales corresponding to the facets of the NEO-PI-R (Terracciano et al., 2005). In each culture, respondents described the typical member of their culture. Psychometric properties and factor structure indicated that NCS data replicated the FFM reasonably well, making comparisons with NEO-PI-R aggregate scores feasible. As in previous studies (Peabody, 1985), there was substantial agreement among raters, supporting the view that such beliefs are widely shared among members of a culture. The aggregate ratings were highly reliable, with men and women yielding essentially the same profile. In those few countries where adult ratings were available (Ethiopia, Italy, The Philippines), the NCS profile also generalized across age groups. In some cultures, data from multiple sites were collected, and in every case there was strong agreement.

Although reliable, the NCS ratings showed a greater range of variation across cultures than the aggregate observer ratings, which is consistent with the idea that stereotypes exaggerate differences among groups. Accuracy was assessed both within and across 49 cultures, and both sets of analyses clearly indicated that NCS scores do not reflect assessed personality traits. For example, within cultures, intraclass correlations between the aggregate facet scores of NEO-PI-R observer ratings and the NCS scales ranged from − .57 for the English to .40 for the Poles, with a median value of .00 (Terracciano et al., 2005). The lack of agreement between national character stereotypes and assessed aggregate personality traits can be seen clearly in Figure 1 , which illustrates the Italian findings.

Mean personality profile for Italians from observer ratings and perceived national character from adults and students. NEO-PI-R profile form reproduced by special permission of the Publisher, Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc., 16204 North Florida Avenue, Lutz, Florida 33549, from the Revised NEO Personality Inventory by Paul T. Costa, Jr., and Robert R. McCrae. Copyright 1978, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992 by Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc. (PAR). Further reproduction is prohibited without permission of PAR.

Psychologists have a keen interest in stereotypes because of their influence on emotion, cognition, and behavior. Stereotype threat can negatively affect the performance and health of ethnic groups (Steele & Aronson, 1995, Blascovich et al., 2001), women (Spencer et al., 1999), and older adults (Levy et al., 2006). Negative views of minority or national groups can exacerbate conflict and create or fuel prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors. As psychiatrists know, stereotypes about mental illness reinforce stigma and discourage people from seeking appropriate treatment.


Psychologists Point Out 11 Clothing Colors That Reveal Your Personality

According to the stylist and author of the book, Color Your Style by David Zyla, "Even if your wardrobe is filled with clothes of a variety of colors and shades, there is always the color that you give a greater preference to because you feel more comfortable and confident in it. It is the very color that reflects your character."

After reviewing the findings of many experts, Bright Side shows you how your favorite color characterizes you in the eyes of people around you.

11. Black

"Black is a color that is taken seriously" says a fashion and style expert, Karen Haller.

Indeed, according to research in the field of psychology, the color black is perceived by others as an indicator of prestige, power, seriousness, and intelligence. Therefore, in many European universities, the graduation mantle is colored black.

People who prefer to wear black clothing are ambitious, purposeful but also sensitive. As a rule, they are emotional and easily excitable, although they often try to hide it. Black color helps them to switch the attention of surroundings from their appearance to personality since internal qualities of a person are most important to them.

10. Brown

Brown is the color of the earth, the color of something reliable, strong and stable. That's how people who often wear brown and its shades are perceived by others.

People who like to wear the color brown are slightly conservative, respect their elders and always look for peace, stability, and strength in everything. A girl in a brown dress or a man in a brown jacket give the impression of a reliable, intelligent and rational person.

9. Blue

Journalist and psychologist, Lisa Johnson Mandell wrote, "Blue is the best color to put on to an interview because it sends out confidence and reliability. Therefore, many working uniforms or business suits are of blue color."

The scientists of the University of British Columbia held a study about the influence of color and found that darker shades of blue have a calming effect. People tend to associate the color blue with intelligence, trust, efficiency, and tranquility.

Blue shades of clothing are often chosen by kind, sympathetic, courteous and even shy people. As psychologists say, the person in blue will become a wonderful parent or an exemplary worker. Calmness and poise are two of the most common qualities found these types of people.

8. Green

Scientists from the University of Amsterdam say that the color green sustains a good mood within you and your surroundings. "The pleasantness of green comes from its kinship with nature, which causes a feeling of peace and contentment," says Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and the author of the book, More Alive With Color'.

Those who prefer green lead an active, public life, they always live in a good area and they are financially stable. They are also caring, kind and have a soft heart.

7. Purple

In the past, purple was often a representation of royalty and higher society. It meant sophistication, wealth and luxury. Cleopatra was known to be crazy about the color purple. During these times, only the rich could afford to wear such shades of purple.

Today, the purple color when worn in clothing indicates creativity, insight, and love of art.

According to experts, people who wear purple are emotional and sensitive. They are dreamy, passionate and love mysticism. These people are also known to be unpredictable and dealing with them can be both easy and difficult at the same time.

6. Red

"Red is the color of passion and power. You should give your preference to this color if you are going to persuade or impress somebody", says Kenny Frimpong, the manager of the brand of Italian menswear, Eredi Pisano.

Any bright shades of red draw attention to the person wearing them. People tend to associate the vibrant color with energy, movement, and excitement. Psychologists from the University of Rochester found that men are more attracted to women wearing a ruby tint. "Red is a stimulant for men," says Abby Calisch, a psychology professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Those who often wear red are bright, easily excitable, slightly self-centered and also addiction-prone.

5. Yellow

Yellow is the color of happiness, sun, and laughter. Studies show that the color yellow increases the production of serotonin in the brain, speeds up metabolism and lifts the mood to all those around it.

In addition, yellow increases concentration and attention, so it is often used on billboards, advertising sites, road signs, and street lines.

Experts say that shades of yellow in clothing are often used by active, creative and addicted people. They are bright dreamers and adventurers, ready to explore and conquer.

4. White

White is the symbol of freedom, purity, innocence, and simplicity. That's why many people decide to buy something white when they are starting something new in their life or entering a new chapter.

The color white attracts reliable people who love freedom and who look at life optimistically. These people are very neat and organized in everything they do, they like new beginnings and strive for perfection. In general, white can be worn by many different personality types. It is a neutral color, which rarely repels others.

3. Pink

Bright pink is the color of a flirty girl but can can also be seen in children's wardrobes or on Barbie dolls. However, for those of a more mature age, softer, more tender shades of pink are preferable as they represent ultimate femininity.

Soft pink is considered calm, warm and feminine and is one of the most powerful sedatives. Therefore, in some prisons, walls are painted in shades of pink to reduce the level of aggression.

According to psychologists, people who love pink are romantic, optimistic and self-righteous (in a good sense). As a rule, they are people who appreciate kindness and comfort above everything else.

2. Orange

Orange always gives an atmosphere a fun party vibe, in addition to being a warm and opportunistic color. It is also cheerful, creative and attractive.

Those who like to wear orange are optimistic, energetic and cheerful, and are eager for change. Although they can be slightly flaky people, still they can be ambitious and prudent.

1. Gray

As stylists like to say, gray is the color of balance, it is neither dark nor bright. If a person has a lot of gray clothing it usually means they want to remain invisible.

Gray and its shades are a symbol of tranquility, dimensionality, and maturity. Many middle-aged men wear gray suits, while women of older ages wear gray dresses.

Since this is a neutral color, it is extremely difficult to characterize the person who prefers it. They could be a gray mouse ready to silently obey the rules, as well as a judicious, low-emotional, and categorical person. But in most cases, a person who favors gray is someone who does not like to attract attention and tries to maintain neutral.


A Final Challenge

As important as it is to keep cultural factors in mind when studying personality, the unfortunate reality is that the major personality theories in psychology, as we recognize psychology today, have arisen within Western intellectual settings. Thus, we do not have corresponding systems of personality theory that arose in other cultures that we might compare to the theories we do have. This somewhat limits our perspective on cross-cultural personality theory to attempts to apply our Western theories to people of other cultures. This limitation should not, however, keep us from considering these issues. It is merely an inconvenience that you should keep in mind as you consider the theories present in this textbook. Should your career lead you into the field of psychology, perhaps you will be one of the people to help develop and advance some theory that moves beyond this limitation.

Another concern has to do with the nature of this textbook, and personality courses in general. Although we have emphasized anthropology and sociology in this chapter, this is a psychology textbook. Nonetheless, culture is an all-encompassing factor in the development and psychology of both individuals and the groups in which they live. Indeed, in Personality and Person Perception Across Cultures, Lee, McCauley, & Draguns (1999) boldly state that “human nature cannot be independent of culture” (pg. vii). Thus, it is essential that we learn as much as possible about culture. As an encouragement for studying other cultures, Ralph Linton had this to say:

The ability to see the culture of one’s own society as a whole, to evaluate its patterns and appreciate their implications, calls for a degree of objectivity which is rarely if ever achieved…Those who know no culture other than their own cannot know their own…Even such a master as Freud frequently posited instincts to account for reactions which we now see as directly referable to cultural conditioning. (pp. 125-126 Linton, 1945).

Personality Theory in Real Life: Examining Your Own Cultural Background

I consider myself to be an American. But what does that actually mean? I know a few tidbits about my ancestors that are quite interesting. One of my ancestors, a great aunt, was on the Titanic when it sank (like most women and children, she was one of the survivors). I am directly descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who came to America on the Mayflower, in the year 1620. Actually, John Howland fell overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during rough seas, but was saved when he grabbed a rope trailing in the water and was then pulled back aboard! Among John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley’s other direct descendants (and, therefore, my distant relatives) are the U. S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, the renowned poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith. This lineage does not, however, come down through the Kelland name, as the Kellands came to America later. If you add one more generation, John Howland’s brothers include among their descendants U. S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The other side of my family was primarily German, and when they first came to America they settled in Kansas and became well-respected wheat farmers.

What do you know about your cultural background? Are you proud of your background in a way that has shaped your life? For example, knowing one of my ancestors was on the Mayflower helped to kindle in me an ongoing interest in history. If you don’t know much about your family’s history, who might you turn to for information? Try it you may learn something fascinating


How We Use Clothing as an Aid . and a Weapon

Americans rely on clothing as an economic and social indicator because there aren't official marks of rank such as a caste system or aristocracy, says Dr. Baumgartner.

"When you don’t have a specific system, people come up with their own," she explains. It's what "helps you figure out where you fit in. Especially now, with the economy, with people losing status, maintaining a sense of who we are becomes even more important. Our clothes help place us where we think we want to be. "

She cites the Real Housewives TV series as an example: "Look at the way they focus on money. When they fight, they use logos and designers as a way to put each other down. They're using clothes and accessories both as a tool to know where they fit in and as a weapon against others."


Introduction to Personality Psychology

Introduction to Personality Psychology

  • Free, contributions written by top researchers and regularly updated, language accessible to lay reader (Jenn Lodi-Smith, Canisius College)

Personality Psychology

The Personality Puzzle

  • Good mix of theory and research, both classic and contemporary. Writing is clear and engaging. (Christopher Soto, Colby College)

Introducing "enclothed cognition" – how what we wear affects how we think

Whether donning a suit for an interview or a sexy outfit for a date, it’s obvious that most of us are well aware of the power of clothing to affect how other people perceive us. But what about the power of our clothes to affect our own thoughts?

Relevant to this question is the growing “embodied cognition” literature showing that the position and state of our bodies can affect our thoughts – for example, cleaning their hands makes people feel morally purer. In a new study Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky propose that clothes can have similar effects on our thoughts – a phenomenon they call “enclothed cognition”. In contrast to embodied cognition effects which are fairly direct, the researchers think enclothed cognition effects will depend on two conditions – first, the symbolic meaning of the clothing and second, the actual wearing of the clothes.

To test this idea, the researchers focused on the power of white coats, synonymous with scientists and their attention to detail. In an initial study, 58 students took part in a test of their powers of selective attention known as the Stroop Test (on critical trials, the ink colour of a word must be named whilst ignoring the colour meaning of the word, e.g. RED written in blue ink). Half the students performed the task in a scientist’s white lab coat (they were told that this was to be consistent with previous participants who’d taken part during building work and worn the coat for protection). The other students just wore their own clothes. The key finding – students in the lab coats made half as many errors on the critical trials of the Stroop Test.

The researchers next wanted to test their proposal that enclothed cognition effects depend on the symbolic meaning of clothes and actually wearing them. For these studies, the participants completed sustained attention tests that involved spotting differences between two similar images. Participants who donned a lab coat performed significantly better than others who merely saw a lab coat on the desk (thus suggesting the enclothed effect is more powerful than mere priming) or others who wore the same kind of coat but were told it belonged to a painter.

Is the enclothed effect about some kind of identification with the clothing? It seems it is more than that. For a final study, participants who wore a lab coat performed better on the sustained attention task than those who wore no coat but wrote an essay about how they identified with a lab coat. In turn, those who wrote the essay performed better than participants who wore a painter’s coat.

“Clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers,” the researchers said. Future research, they suggested, could examine the effects of other types of clothing: might the robe of a priest make us more moral? Would a firefighter’s suit make us more brave? “Although the saying goes that clothes do not make the man,” the researchers concluded, “our results suggest they do hold a strange power over their wearers.”

As well as building on the embodied cognition literature, these new findings also chime with recent “positive contagion” research showing that amateur golfers’ performance improved, and their perception of the hole changed, when they thought they were playing with a putter that belonged to a professional.

_________________________________


Adam, H., and Galinsky, A. (2012). Enclothed Cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008 (thanks to Marc Brysbaert for the tip-off).


The Psychology of Fashion

Your fashion style can determine if you ace that interview and get that dream job. Once you are on the job, your wardrobe can determine if you get more responsibility and get promoted. Your clothing choices can make or break your career, your ability to make friends, and develop the romantic relationships that you seek.

Just as dress radiates outward to your surroundings, it also moves inward. How you dress affects your mood. Your wardrobe choices have a psychological impact. Karen Pine demonstrates in her book Mind What You Wear that there is a science behind fashion and that psychology and fashion are indeed linked.

&ldquoFashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.&rdquo &mdash Vivienne Westwood

A bidirectional relationship

Our clothes impact how we feel and how we feel influences what we choose to wear. In some cultures, a woman is more likely to wear jeans if she is depressed (Pine, 2012). Patients trust a doctor more if he is wearing a white coat, and people show more mental agility if they are told the white coat they are wearing is a physician&rsquos lab coat compared to if they are told it is a painter&rsquos smock (Pine, 2014).

In the discipline of psychology, we focus on risk factors, behaviors, and emotional states. We know that fashion has always played a significant role in reflecting (and sometimes reinforcing) the mental attitudes, political culture and gender roles of the day. Think of how important a woman&rsquos clothing is according to the religious and cultural environment she lives in. Think of how this might impact her sense of self. While more academic research is needed to better understand the impact of clothing and fashion on behavior and emotions, our lived experience tells us that there is a strong effect.

&ldquoOur bodies matter, they are in fact an extension of our self. They are part of the environment we live in&rdquo (Shah, 2012).

Fashion choices are part of growth and self expression for adolescents

It seems that all parents face, at some point, the question of &ldquoshould I let my adolescent wear whatever they want?&rdquo

Fashion choices reflect growth, changing values, and self expression. Young people want to dress in a way that reflects their values and traits. They want to have the agency to express themselves through their fashion choices. Fashion is important as youth go through the stages of psychosocial development and is an integral part of the development of a sense of self and a way of finding social confirmation (Venkatasamy, 2015).

Final thoughts

There is a reason fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry today. What we wear affects how we feel about ourselves and others.

The next time you choose what to wear, think about why you chose that outfit. Allow more understanding for others when considering why they dress the way they do. And most of all, use the opportunity to have fun and bring pleasure into your life. Self care is an important aspect of mental health. Looking and feeling good is not just an advertising slogan, it is a viable aspect to your wellbeing.

Pine, K. J. (2014). Mind what you wear: The psychology of fashion. Self-published. E-book .


A Final Challenge

As important as it is to keep cultural factors in mind when studying personality, the unfortunate reality is that the major personality theories in psychology, as we recognize psychology today, have arisen within Western intellectual settings. Thus, we do not have corresponding systems of personality theory that arose in other cultures that we might compare to the theories we do have. This somewhat limits our perspective on cross-cultural personality theory to attempts to apply our Western theories to people of other cultures. This limitation should not, however, keep us from considering these issues. It is merely an inconvenience that you should keep in mind as you consider the theories present in this textbook. Should your career lead you into the field of psychology, perhaps you will be one of the people to help develop and advance some theory that moves beyond this limitation.

Another concern has to do with the nature of this textbook, and personality courses in general. Although we have emphasized anthropology and sociology in this chapter, this is a psychology textbook. Nonetheless, culture is an all-encompassing factor in the development and psychology of both individuals and the groups in which they live. Indeed, in Personality and Person Perception Across Cultures, Lee, McCauley, & Draguns (1999) boldly state that “human nature cannot be independent of culture” (pg. vii). Thus, it is essential that we learn as much as possible about culture. As an encouragement for studying other cultures, Ralph Linton had this to say:

The ability to see the culture of one’s own society as a whole, to evaluate its patterns and appreciate their implications, calls for a degree of objectivity which is rarely if ever achieved…Those who know no culture other than their own cannot know their own…Even such a master as Freud frequently posited instincts to account for reactions which we now see as directly referable to cultural conditioning. (pp. 125-126 Linton, 1945).

Personality Theory in Real Life: Examining Your Own Cultural Background

I consider myself to be an American. But what does that actually mean? I know a few tidbits about my ancestors that are quite interesting. One of my ancestors, a great aunt, was on the Titanic when it sank (like most women and children, she was one of the survivors). I am directly descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who came to America on the Mayflower, in the year 1620. Actually, John Howland fell overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during rough seas, but was saved when he grabbed a rope trailing in the water and was then pulled back aboard! Among John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley’s other direct descendants (and, therefore, my distant relatives) are the U. S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, the renowned poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith. This lineage does not, however, come down through the Kelland name, as the Kellands came to America later. If you add one more generation, John Howland’s brothers include among their descendants U. S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The other side of my family was primarily German, and when they first came to America they settled in Kansas and became well-respected wheat farmers.

What do you know about your cultural background? Are you proud of your background in a way that has shaped your life? For example, knowing one of my ancestors was on the Mayflower helped to kindle in me an ongoing interest in history. If you don’t know much about your family’s history, who might you turn to for information? Try it you may learn something fascinating


  • How does temperament relate to creativity? Are people with certain temperaments more or less creative? For your project, you might try administering scales measuring temperament and creativity to a group of participants.
  • Are certain personality traits linked to prosocial behaviors? Consider how traits such as kindness, generosity, and empathy might be associated with altruism and heroism.
  • How do personality assessments compare? Consider comparing common assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and the 16PF Questionnaire.
  • Do people tend to marry individuals with similar personalities?
  • What impact does birth order have on personality? Are first-born children more responsible, and are last-borns less responsible?
  • Is there a connection between personality types and musical tastes? Do people who share certain personality traits prefer the same types of music?
  • Are people who participate in athletics more likely to have certain personality characteristics? Compare the personality types of athletes versus non-athletes.
  • Are individuals with high self-esteem more competitive than those with low self-esteem? Do those with high self-esteem perform better than those who have lower self-esteem?
  • Is there a correlation between personality type and the tendency to cheat on exams? Are people low in conscientiousness more likely to cheat? Are extroverts or introverts more liable to cheat?
  • How do personality factors influence a person's use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Are individuals who use social media frequently more or less extroverted?
  • How does Type A behavior influence success in school? Are people who exhibit Type A characteristics more likely to succeed?
  • Is there a connection between a person's personality type and the kind of art they like?
  • Do people tend to choose pets based on their personality types? How do the personalities of dog owners compare to those of cat owners?

Once you find a suitable research topic, you might be tempted just to dive right in and get started. However, there are a few important steps you need to take first.

Most importantly, be sure to run your topic idea past your instructor, particularly if you are planning to conduct an actual experiment with human participants. In most cases, you will need to gain your instructor's permission and possibly submit your plan to your school's human subjects committee to gain approval.  


Kaitlin Luna: Welcome to Speaking of Psychology , a bi-weekly podcast from the American Psychological Association. I'm your host Kaitlin Luna.

The clothes we put on every day tell a story about who we are to the world and can have a major impact on our emotions and mood. So where does psychology fit into all this, and how does it help us solve some of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry now and in the future? Our guest for this episode is Dr. Carolyn Mair, a cognitive psychologist who created the Psychology of Fashion department at the London College of Fashion at the University of Arts London as well as an undergraduate program and two master's degree programs there. Dr. Mair is currently a consultant for fashion brands and recently published a book called the “Psychology of Fashion.” Welcome Dr. Mair.

Carolyn Mair: Thank you very much Kaitlin it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Kaitlin Luna: We're happy to have you. How did you get into this field?

Carolyn Mair: I've always been interested in fashion, and my first job was a window dresser, visual merchandiser as it's known now. I did that for four years, absolutely loved it and then I did several other creative jobs. Making clothes for people, making clothes myself and so on and then when I got into my 30s and I had three children I decided it was time to get a degree. So, I did my undergraduate degree in applied psychology and computing. Then I did a master's in research methods and then I was very fortunate to be able to have a funded PhD studentship. So, after my PhD I really wanted to work in the applied field of psychology because my PhD was so theoretical, and I worked for seven years in an ordinary psychology department as a senior lecturer and then became a professor. And then I was at a conference and I met somebody from London College of Fashion and when I asked him if there were only psychologists there he said there weren't and that I should come into a paper there. And so I gave a paper at London College of Fashion on the importance of psychology for fashion and I was invited back to discuss how I could bring psychology to the college and that was back in 2011. I started working there in 2012 and developed the master's courses and set up the department before I left in 2017.

Kaitlin Luna: Wow so you've had a lifelong interest in fashion and that became academic and now here you are having have set up this program at the college, that's wonderful.

Carolyn Mair: Thank you.

Kaitlin Luna: And you wrote in your book that there are very few psychologists in this field, so from your perspective why is it important to have psychologists researching and working in the fashion industry?

Carolyn Mair: Well the fashion industry is about people. It employs millions worldwide and everyone wears clothes. Clothes are the closest thing to our bodies, they're our second skin. And psychologists can help with loss of the issues that are known to be caused by the fashion industry. So for example the fashion industry has a poor reputation in terms of social responsibility and now coming to a head, and it's been around for four decades actually, are the issues about sustainability. So the fashion industry is one of the worst industries for damaging the environment and psychologists can help with this. They can help the consumers change their habits through developing behavior change programs, they can also work with employers to help them create workplaces that provide better conditions for their staff, and they can also help in predicting demands so that there's far less waste when the items are made. So currently fashion forecasters tend to work on intuition, gut feeling, sometimes they look at the historical cycles, but psychologists are well trained in data analysis and they will be able to predict fashion trends much better using data.

And of course, there's the obvious way that psychologists can work in the fashion industry and that's in consumer behavior. And consumers are becoming more and more demanding. They are wanting more than just to be satisfied. Customers now have fantastic opportunities for competition, for searching online and in-store so the retail companies, fashion retail companies, have to give consumers a fantastic experience and who better to help design a fantastic experience than psychologists.

Kaitlin Luna: You just touched on some very interesting issues regarding overconsumption and regarding the environment. So you cited an alarming statistic in your book as well that in the US about an estimated 15 million people have a spending addiction, so we know that overconsumption is clearly an issue. How can people break the cycle and consume more responsibly?

Carolyn Mair: Well it's a very difficult one because the way we shop becomes a habit and lots of, lots of us go shopping as a social pleasure, as a leisure pursuit, and so shopping becomes part of what we do, part of our identity. And also you know, we like novelty, we like fashion we want to look nice and enhance ourselves. But people can also change their habits through structured behavior change programs so they can learn to identify what are the habits, what are the triggers that encourage them to go out buy more, more, more, more. And quite often they don't wear these items and how can their habits be changed so that it's a win-win situation for them so they have more money in their pockets to enjoy experiences rather than material objects. And they can also do good for the environment by consuming less and contributing less to the landfill problem.

Kaitlin Luna: Is this something you're working on when you in your consulting work?

Carolyn Mair: Yes, so I'm currently working across so many issues within the fashion industry and it's just such an amazing opportunity to make a really important difference globally. So yes changing people's habits, looking at the communication that we put out as a business, looking at how we communicate with our staff and with our customers. Yeah so this is something that I've been doing as a consultant since 2017. Understanding that, you know, that consumers are people, and they have behavior and psychologists understand behavior. So as a cognitive psychologist looking at all the cognitive processes you know the way we think, the way we perceive, the way we understand the world to make sense of it, all these things, processes, that we do as human beings this is what psychologists can help the fashion industry, and then to be honest all industry, learn more about.

Kaitlin Luna: And you wrote a lot about fast fashion which we've touched on as well. The environmental impacts of this and the human impacts of it, how its created environmental and human rights problems and there has been some movement in a positive direction, it's more awareness of this but people are still suffering in sweatshops and landfills are still getting filled up with unused or unwanted clothing. What is needed to change this trend?

Carolyn Mair: Okay first of all, I think it's quite important that that this notion of fast fashion equals bad needs to be changed. So, lots of items which are not considered fast fashion are made in exactly the same factories under exactly the same conditions. The problem is not with fast fashion per se, the problem with is with overproduction and overconsumption that ends up in the landfill sites. There are problems with the working conditions with abuse of the workers, with human rights as you say and these need to be addressed at the local level because they the factories are typically run by people in the local communities and there is a lot of pressure on them to change and hopefully they will. When the pressure turns into voting with our wallets, which is, I think we're beginning to see that, people are buying less and being more mindful with what they buy. Then then the behavior of the factory owners and the retail companies will change accordingly and the pressure is coming from consumers now.

Kaitlin Luna: So you are seeing changes in the opposite direction where people are being more mindful about what they purchase and how much of it.

Carolyn Mair: Some pockets of the population yes for sure, but there are still people who want to consume a lot simply because it's cheap and in reality they probably spend as much as they would on five or six very cheap items as they would if they bought one more one expensive item, a more expensive item that they would actually wear and it would potentially last longer and they would value it more.

Kaitlin Luna: Do you think a solution is for people to purchase perhaps higher quality items? Sometimes that can mean more expensive items as opposed to those, you know, buying five t-shirts for the price of one nice shirt. Is that one way to alleviate the problem?

Carolyn Mair: Yes I think I think that makes perfect sense. Because you know buying five very similar items and four of them are unlikely to be worn is purely wasteful and because they're cheap they're probably not going to be sold or swapped or nobody was really going to want them secondhand anyway. So yeah, I would definitely say buy less, buy mindfully, enjoy the experience, but don't buy multiple items that you're not going to wear. Think about it at the point-of-sale, when are you going to wear this item or these items, do you really want to buy it and is it just gonna hang in your wardrobe with the tags still on it until you decide you don't want it anymore and find out that nobody else does either which is, it's just so wasteful.

Kaitlin Luna: So there does come a point in a lifecycle of a piece of clothing item where you might want to give it away or to donate it or something of that nature. Is that a good solution to give away your clothes, give them to charity, give them to friends?

Carolyn Mair: Yeah definitely anything that stops them going into landfill is good, recycling if the product can be recycled then fantastic. Sometimes the recycling process does quite a lot of harm to the environment as well. Separating different fabrics, different textiles is difficult and not always possible. But anything is better than putting your unwanted items in the bin that would go to landfill. So swapping, renting clothes is becoming more and more popular. Selling on a market, individuals selling their own clothes is also becoming popular, and lots of fashion brands, fast fashion I'm well aware of, I'm not sure that the higher end of the fashion market does this, is accepting bags of recyclable clothes that you don't want, previously loved clothes let's say, for recycling and they might be used if they can be separated out for recycling. Some are useful for stuffing other fabrics for rags and then some are sent on to other countries so there's some organizations that go around and buy unwanted used clothing. But this can be problematic because the used clothes might end up actually frustrating the development of the fashion industry in developing markets.

Kaitlin Luna: I want to turn now to mental health, and as you mentioned clothing conveys a lot about a person. So what does, how does what we put on our bodies every day influence our mental health?

Carolyn Mair: Well it's stressful for us if we don't feel comfortable in what we're wearing. If we're really worrying that it's appropriate or it's suitable or we don't feel confident in what we're wearing. It stresses us and this means that we don't have the cognitive capacity to deal with the problem at hand. This is why lots of very successful people tend to wear a work uniform in inverted commas, not necessarily as suits but it may be t-shirt and jeans as we've seen with Mark Zuckerberg who wears the same items every day to allow this freeing up of cognitive capacity for more important issues. And then you know for you or me this might mean going to a meeting wearing something that we've worn before and knowing that it's suitable or it's appropriate and we don't have to worry about that at that time.

Kaitlin Luna: I know there have been positive steps in the right direction but it still seems like everywhere we go we're bombarded with images that encourage us to consume fashion and that there's no way to escape it. How does that impact people's mental health?

Carolyn Mair: People generally buy far more than they need and probably to be honest, none of us probably needs to buy any more clothes ever. Research suggests that 80% of clothes in our wardrobe are unworn and that's quite worrying actually, as some people can become addicted to shopping and this can result in debt, in shame, in guilt and there's a move now to buy mindfully which we've discussed, and I would definitely agree with that. Buying too much is something that we really should avoid. When you buy less it seems like a win-win situation. You've got more money in your pocket to enjoy the experiences that bring more and lasting satisfaction and you're also doing less harm to the environment.

Kaitlin Luna: So throughout this interview you've mentioned several times about the importance of people being mindful of their purchases, and this move toward mindfulness is certainly wonderful in many ways. But how does that work within the fashion industry because they certainly need to generate profits. I mean they want to respond to their customers in terms of wanting to be understanding and receptive to being more mindful about fashion, but at the same time they also need to make money. So what are you seeing in terms of that tension that exists?

Carolyn Mair: I think once the fashion industry is more in tune with what the customers want, actually want rather than what they think they want, when they're more able to predict more accurately, so production on demand rather than full supply, then you know this affects profits more so than the selling. So much money is wasted on overproduction, so if that comes out of the equation, the company can still be profitable.

Kaitlin Luna: You mentioned in your book the pressure to produce for consumers is so high that people in the fashion industry often suffer from mental health issues like substance abuse, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. So what needs to change in the industry and are you seeing any movement in that direction, in a better direction?

Carolyn Mair: Well I think we're still waiting for some change in that. I mean the cycles of fashion have become shorter and shorter so where they used to be two seasons and perhaps a cruise collection there are now six, seven, ten. Some high street brands have new stock every week, some every two weeks, and the designers are just on a treadmill. And the ones who we've seen are the very famous high-end designers where it makes news when they have mental health problems or worse. But there's a whole industry behind them of designer's assistants and interns who don't make that publicity when they have mental health problems. And it's not, there isn't time to speak out about how you feel, there isn't that possibility really. And it's not just the designers, its models as well who, when there's a fashion week or on shoots, they have to be available from the early morning to late at night looking fantastic the whole time often like no time to eat or very little time to eat, no food available for them, and there are reports of models saying that they've not been treated very well at all, that they just treated like a, like a clothes hanger I suppose, and that they're not called by their names. Not all, and we see the very famous ones, the ones who have fantastic lifestyles, but again there are thousands of models who don't enjoy that kind of celebrity status whose mental health may well suffer. And it may be that the fashion industry attracts people who are susceptible to mental health problems because it's so creative, so dynamic, so exciting and the pressures are on not just to work but to be on form 24/7.

Kaitlin Luna: And on the flip side for consumers who see images of these impossibly thin and beautiful models, what does that do to a person's self-image and their positive feelings about themselves?

Carolyn Mair: There's quite a lot of research now which shows that even a very brief look at fashion imagery of thin models or airbrush models can damage a person's body satisfaction, so they feel worse about their body than they did before after a very brief exposure. And given that we're exposed to images of a fashion thousands of times in a week you know this is affecting most of us, and social media has a lot to answer for to be honest with the images that are on Instagram for example. So anyone who likes fashion is going to be following the people, the designers they like, the models they like, the influencers they like, on Instagram and most of them have a particular image which, you know, individuals want to aspire to, they aspire to be, but quite often are unattainable.

Kaitlin Luna: And what do you think needs to change in this area?

Carolyn Mair: Well the same as it across the whole industry. More diversity, more representation and not just on the other side of the camera but in front of the camera so more diversity in the workforce of the fashion industry and in their peripheral workforce so model agents and so on. So far, more representation of the populations that the fashion industry serves, and this isn't just about skin tone, it's about body type, body shape, ages, ability and just the whole range you know. As I said right at the start everyone wears clothes and everyone should be represented by the fashion industry.

Kaitlin Luna: Where do you see psychologists fitting into all this in terms of helping promote more inclusivity and diversity?

Carolyn Mair: Psychologists can run studies that test hypotheses that say that improving representation is good for the industry and good for the consumer and show the evidence, bring the evidence to the fashion industry. Psychologists can also help with the communities who are marginalized. And when psychologists work in the industry they can actually really show the industry and how beneficial it is to have a diverse workforce. I mean there's plenty of evidence for that already.

Kaitlin Luna: Absolutely, and turning to a more casual topic what are your thoughts today about people dressing more casually? I mean a lot of people wear active wear as everyday clothing and offices are becoming more casual in a lot of instances.

Carolyn Mair: Yeah I'm fine with that. You know, in London you can wear absolutely anything you want and nobody looks at all. I think it's great that people can wear whatever they want, whether that's active wear, casual wear to work. I think it's a really positive move. For lots of people working in a formal suit it doesn't represent their true selves or their self-identity and so they might struggle to do the kind of job that they want to do if they were free to choose what clothes they can wear. But me for example, I really don't like wearing suits and I would typically wear jeans, I'm wearing jeans now. Or jeans and a jumper, or jeans and a shirt, so yeah I think people should be allowed to dress in the way they want because the way we dress is part of our identity, part of who we are.

Kaitlin Luna: Yeah so is what you're saying is a more casual environment overall does help people's mental health I imagine. Because if they are expressing their authentic self as opposed to wearing a suit or uniform every day, probably feeling better yea.

Carolyn Mair: Exactly, they have the freedom to choose. And autonomy, again plenty of evidence to support this, giving people autonomy at work or in their lives in whichever aspect is possible, is a really positive element of people's life.

Kaitlin Luna: So people say often “dress for success,” does that hold water these days?

Carolyn Mair: It depends on the industry. Progressive industries success might be a pair of jeans and a cool t-shirt with a slogan of something. Still in finance it might be that you still have to wear a suit. When people ask me this question I would always say do some homework, find out what the next level in the hierarchy is wearing. What is the unwritten rule for that job, because you know if something is inappropriate or just considered not suitable by the person who might be hiring you, then however much you love it, it shows your identity, the person the hirer might believe that you're not really the right person for that job. In my opinion it shouldn't matter but it still does.

Kaitlin Luna: As a fashion psychologist, how do you approach your wardrobe?

Carolyn Mair: I like very plain casual clothes. I try to dress appropriately for a situation that I'm going to. Yeah I would say that I don't want clothes that shout, so I prefer clothes that don't say very much about them, so I'm not a logo wearer. Yeah typically quite plain clothes, often black or navy and in the summer maybe white, so I'm a quite plain dresser.

Kaitlin Luna: You know I've actually noticed that some of the biggest fashion designers you know will come out on the catwalk and they're wearing very simple, maybe black clothing. So is there any psychological reason why they might do that? Or are they trying to have an emphasis be on the clothes, of their other clothes that they're designing?

Carolyn Mair: Yes, it's almost an unwritten rule I think of the fashion industry, is black, almost like a modest dressing, quite loose fluid, gender fluid clothes. Yeah and that's been around for quite a while in the industry. It varies, I mean there are some fashion designers who dress quite, outrageously let's say, but yeah the majority I would say dress plainly. Perhaps yes as you say to not distract from the creations they've made on the catwalk.

Kaitlin Luna: It's always kind of struck me as interesting, someone who creates this like nearly dynamic outfit maybe it's colorful or something and then comes out and they're wearing maybe a black pants and a black shirt, sneakers or something like that, it's always a little jarring. I wanted to go back to, you mention about the workplace uniform and kind of a trend you might see like in the Silicon Valley or something where entrepreneurs wear casual clothes. Maybe they wear the same thing every day, that kind of thing. Is there anything behind that, you mentioned you people wanting to reserve cognitive resources, but is there any other, are there any psychological reasons why someone might want to wear a self-imposed uniform?

Carolyn Mair: It says something to the people who they are interacting with. For example it's not going to be any commentary around their clothes if they wear the same thing every day. So you know this issue with, oh wow, drawing attention to what they're wearing just won't happen if you wear the same thing every day. And perhaps that's why fashion designers and people who work in fashion wear a lot of black loose clothing because it doesn't say anything much about what they're wearing. But I think there's an important part about the cognitive resources, because if you're stressed about what you're wearing or if you're thinking about what you're wearing you don't have the capacity to think fully on the job at hand. You know worrying is it appropriate or have I dressed correctly for this meeting and then I'm going to another meeting. So I think a work uniform frees up time in the morning, you don't have to make decisions about what to wear for the day, but it's also very efficient at work because you won't get comments on what you're wearing. I would think it's rare that people would say oh you're wearing the same thing every day.

Kaitlin Luna: And do you think there's a lot of openings in the fashion industry for psychologists? You mentioned wanting to get more people in the field but do you think this is an area of study that you see growing in the future and opportunities for psychologists or people with a background in psychology or interest in psychology to find a way to use their knowledge in perhaps a different field than they expected?

Carolyn Mair: Absolutely, I think this year is a very interesting year for fashion retail. I think a lot of fashion retailers will struggle this year with the rising consumer demands and the rising competition and the rise of omni-channel shopping and so psychologists are suddenly being the people as well as tech people who are necessary in the fashion industry to understand all the processes that happen in the brain as well as all the social processes that happen between people. So consumers, fashion employees, and the peripheral people who work with fashion brands but are not actually part of the brands. And I think a huge opening will happen, and this takes time. So the course has only started recruiting in 2014. But I would say in a couple of years' time there's gonna be great demand for psychologists working in the fashion industry and I really feel it's important that people who work in the fashion industry as psychologists have psychology training and don't just feel that because they're human that they are psychologists. I think this is really really important because psychologists are also trained in ethics and understanding that, you know, people are vulnerable and sort of making claims about what happens because this all that can backfire with people who are not able to handle the outcomes of something for example. So I'm really conscious of some people wanting to work in the fashion industry as psychologists who have little or no understanding or training of psychology.

Kaitlin Luna: And going off what you just mentioned about ethics, there's been some scandals from recent brands like Gucci and Prada who've had issues with race and cultural sensitivity issues. So how can psychologists contribute to helping brands in this manner?

Carolyn Mair: Well, psychologists can help they because they need to help brands become more diverse in the areas of design, in their thinking, in their communications. Because this is an issue of lack of diversity as much as it's an ethical issue and a racist issue. So the lack of awareness by these brands is clearly shocking. And running diversity programs, implicit bias training to overcome the biases that people have, and also getting people on the ground actually working with the communities who these brands serve. It's beyond defensive and you know I think the brands have to hold their hands up when they've done something that is offensive. You know it all comes down to diversity, but the ethics is across the board and it needs to be implicit in everything that a brand does. So, you know, we're seeing with more data use the ethics of that has to be really seriously considered.

Kaitlin Luna: From your perspective what is the future of the fashion industry?

Carolyn Mair: Well I think the fashion industry is going to diversify not only in terms of its workforce or it's symmetry but in terms of its products, in terms of its services, because if we really are going to be buying less and it still needs to make a profit it needs to do that somehow. I think the fashion industry is also going to need to work with other disciplines, it's already working with AI and tech, it will be working far more with materials scientists, creating biodegradable textiles that can be woven easily and laundered and cared for but also can be recycled in a way that doesn't harm the environment. The fashion industry will of course be working with more psychologists and apologists. I think it's going to be an industry that in the past has been very much design based and business based that we will see the necessity, like neuroscience, for working with lots of different disciplines and actually appreciating the value of the diversity of disciplines within the industry, it's gonna make it far richer.

Kaitlin Luna: Thank you so much for joining us Dr. Mair, really appreciate your time.


How Clothing Choices Affect and Reflect Your Self-Image

Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence. Scientists call this phenomenon "enclothed cognition", and Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, write that enclothed cognition "involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors -- the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them." The researchers had subjects perform tests while wearing a lab coat like medical doctors wear, a coat like painters wear, and while not wearing either coat. They found that subjects' sustained attention increased while wearing the doctors' coats in a way that their attention did not increase while wearing the painters' coats or no coats.

Similarly, Professor Karen J. Pine, of the University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) writes in her very short book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion "When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it." In the studies Pine conducted, as related in her book, one participant admitted, "If I'm in casual clothes I relax and am tomboyish, but if I dress up for a meeting or a special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself."

That is what Lisa Stariha, The Body Empowerment Coach, tries to instill her in clients. She says it is so important to "Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day." Stariha, who often works from her home office, knows how comfortable it can be to work in yoga pants and a cozy shirt. But, she says, "to feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the yoga pants and put on clothes that give you power," just as Wonder Woman went from her Diana Prince uniform to her kick-butt Wonder Woman costume.

How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things my co-authors, Jean Otte and Rosina L. Racioppi and I mentioned in our book WOMEN Are Changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. And Business Insider says that clothes don't just affect your confidence levels, they can affect your success, as "clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you."

In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume. For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average Joe, with, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 56,000 people claiming that as their occupation in 2014. Kim Peterson, of Uniquely Savvy, helps people champion themselves through personal brand and style analysis, body and color analysis, wardrobe analysis, personal shopping, and virtual style consulting for individuals, and more progressive businesses bring Kim in to do workshops for their employees on these self-empowerment topics.

So the next time you reach for those yoga pants or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?


How We Use Clothing as an Aid . and a Weapon

Americans rely on clothing as an economic and social indicator because there aren't official marks of rank such as a caste system or aristocracy, says Dr. Baumgartner.

"When you don’t have a specific system, people come up with their own," she explains. It's what "helps you figure out where you fit in. Especially now, with the economy, with people losing status, maintaining a sense of who we are becomes even more important. Our clothes help place us where we think we want to be. "

She cites the Real Housewives TV series as an example: "Look at the way they focus on money. When they fight, they use logos and designers as a way to put each other down. They're using clothes and accessories both as a tool to know where they fit in and as a weapon against others."


Psychologists Point Out 11 Clothing Colors That Reveal Your Personality

According to the stylist and author of the book, Color Your Style by David Zyla, "Even if your wardrobe is filled with clothes of a variety of colors and shades, there is always the color that you give a greater preference to because you feel more comfortable and confident in it. It is the very color that reflects your character."

After reviewing the findings of many experts, Bright Side shows you how your favorite color characterizes you in the eyes of people around you.

11. Black

"Black is a color that is taken seriously" says a fashion and style expert, Karen Haller.

Indeed, according to research in the field of psychology, the color black is perceived by others as an indicator of prestige, power, seriousness, and intelligence. Therefore, in many European universities, the graduation mantle is colored black.

People who prefer to wear black clothing are ambitious, purposeful but also sensitive. As a rule, they are emotional and easily excitable, although they often try to hide it. Black color helps them to switch the attention of surroundings from their appearance to personality since internal qualities of a person are most important to them.

10. Brown

Brown is the color of the earth, the color of something reliable, strong and stable. That's how people who often wear brown and its shades are perceived by others.

People who like to wear the color brown are slightly conservative, respect their elders and always look for peace, stability, and strength in everything. A girl in a brown dress or a man in a brown jacket give the impression of a reliable, intelligent and rational person.

9. Blue

Journalist and psychologist, Lisa Johnson Mandell wrote, "Blue is the best color to put on to an interview because it sends out confidence and reliability. Therefore, many working uniforms or business suits are of blue color."

The scientists of the University of British Columbia held a study about the influence of color and found that darker shades of blue have a calming effect. People tend to associate the color blue with intelligence, trust, efficiency, and tranquility.

Blue shades of clothing are often chosen by kind, sympathetic, courteous and even shy people. As psychologists say, the person in blue will become a wonderful parent or an exemplary worker. Calmness and poise are two of the most common qualities found these types of people.

8. Green

Scientists from the University of Amsterdam say that the color green sustains a good mood within you and your surroundings. "The pleasantness of green comes from its kinship with nature, which causes a feeling of peace and contentment," says Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and the author of the book, More Alive With Color'.

Those who prefer green lead an active, public life, they always live in a good area and they are financially stable. They are also caring, kind and have a soft heart.

7. Purple

In the past, purple was often a representation of royalty and higher society. It meant sophistication, wealth and luxury. Cleopatra was known to be crazy about the color purple. During these times, only the rich could afford to wear such shades of purple.

Today, the purple color when worn in clothing indicates creativity, insight, and love of art.

According to experts, people who wear purple are emotional and sensitive. They are dreamy, passionate and love mysticism. These people are also known to be unpredictable and dealing with them can be both easy and difficult at the same time.

6. Red

"Red is the color of passion and power. You should give your preference to this color if you are going to persuade or impress somebody", says Kenny Frimpong, the manager of the brand of Italian menswear, Eredi Pisano.

Any bright shades of red draw attention to the person wearing them. People tend to associate the vibrant color with energy, movement, and excitement. Psychologists from the University of Rochester found that men are more attracted to women wearing a ruby tint. "Red is a stimulant for men," says Abby Calisch, a psychology professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Those who often wear red are bright, easily excitable, slightly self-centered and also addiction-prone.

5. Yellow

Yellow is the color of happiness, sun, and laughter. Studies show that the color yellow increases the production of serotonin in the brain, speeds up metabolism and lifts the mood to all those around it.

In addition, yellow increases concentration and attention, so it is often used on billboards, advertising sites, road signs, and street lines.

Experts say that shades of yellow in clothing are often used by active, creative and addicted people. They are bright dreamers and adventurers, ready to explore and conquer.

4. White

White is the symbol of freedom, purity, innocence, and simplicity. That's why many people decide to buy something white when they are starting something new in their life or entering a new chapter.

The color white attracts reliable people who love freedom and who look at life optimistically. These people are very neat and organized in everything they do, they like new beginnings and strive for perfection. In general, white can be worn by many different personality types. It is a neutral color, which rarely repels others.

3. Pink

Bright pink is the color of a flirty girl but can can also be seen in children's wardrobes or on Barbie dolls. However, for those of a more mature age, softer, more tender shades of pink are preferable as they represent ultimate femininity.

Soft pink is considered calm, warm and feminine and is one of the most powerful sedatives. Therefore, in some prisons, walls are painted in shades of pink to reduce the level of aggression.

According to psychologists, people who love pink are romantic, optimistic and self-righteous (in a good sense). As a rule, they are people who appreciate kindness and comfort above everything else.

2. Orange

Orange always gives an atmosphere a fun party vibe, in addition to being a warm and opportunistic color. It is also cheerful, creative and attractive.

Those who like to wear orange are optimistic, energetic and cheerful, and are eager for change. Although they can be slightly flaky people, still they can be ambitious and prudent.

1. Gray

As stylists like to say, gray is the color of balance, it is neither dark nor bright. If a person has a lot of gray clothing it usually means they want to remain invisible.

Gray and its shades are a symbol of tranquility, dimensionality, and maturity. Many middle-aged men wear gray suits, while women of older ages wear gray dresses.

Since this is a neutral color, it is extremely difficult to characterize the person who prefers it. They could be a gray mouse ready to silently obey the rules, as well as a judicious, low-emotional, and categorical person. But in most cases, a person who favors gray is someone who does not like to attract attention and tries to maintain neutral.


National Character Stereotypes

Perhaps one of the most scientifically and socially valuable contributions of aggregate personality scores has been their use as criteria to evaluate the accuracy of national character stereotypes. Many Europeans, and perhaps people from other parts of the world, seem to agree that Italians are passionate, the Swiss are punctual, and Germans are well-organized (Peabody, 1985). Similar ideas about the traits of the typical member of a culture can be found everywhere, but are these beliefs accurate? Are views of national character the result of direct observation of the members of a culture, or are they a reflection of the socioeconomic conditions, climate, history, customs, and values?

We recently addressed such questions by gathering data from 3,989 respondents in 49 cultures around the world who completed the National Character Survey (NCS), a new measure consisting of 30 bipolar scales corresponding to the facets of the NEO-PI-R (Terracciano et al., 2005). In each culture, respondents described the typical member of their culture. Psychometric properties and factor structure indicated that NCS data replicated the FFM reasonably well, making comparisons with NEO-PI-R aggregate scores feasible. As in previous studies (Peabody, 1985), there was substantial agreement among raters, supporting the view that such beliefs are widely shared among members of a culture. The aggregate ratings were highly reliable, with men and women yielding essentially the same profile. In those few countries where adult ratings were available (Ethiopia, Italy, The Philippines), the NCS profile also generalized across age groups. In some cultures, data from multiple sites were collected, and in every case there was strong agreement.

Although reliable, the NCS ratings showed a greater range of variation across cultures than the aggregate observer ratings, which is consistent with the idea that stereotypes exaggerate differences among groups. Accuracy was assessed both within and across 49 cultures, and both sets of analyses clearly indicated that NCS scores do not reflect assessed personality traits. For example, within cultures, intraclass correlations between the aggregate facet scores of NEO-PI-R observer ratings and the NCS scales ranged from − .57 for the English to .40 for the Poles, with a median value of .00 (Terracciano et al., 2005). The lack of agreement between national character stereotypes and assessed aggregate personality traits can be seen clearly in Figure 1 , which illustrates the Italian findings.

Mean personality profile for Italians from observer ratings and perceived national character from adults and students. NEO-PI-R profile form reproduced by special permission of the Publisher, Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc., 16204 North Florida Avenue, Lutz, Florida 33549, from the Revised NEO Personality Inventory by Paul T. Costa, Jr., and Robert R. McCrae. Copyright 1978, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992 by Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc. (PAR). Further reproduction is prohibited without permission of PAR.

Psychologists have a keen interest in stereotypes because of their influence on emotion, cognition, and behavior. Stereotype threat can negatively affect the performance and health of ethnic groups (Steele & Aronson, 1995, Blascovich et al., 2001), women (Spencer et al., 1999), and older adults (Levy et al., 2006). Negative views of minority or national groups can exacerbate conflict and create or fuel prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors. As psychiatrists know, stereotypes about mental illness reinforce stigma and discourage people from seeking appropriate treatment.


Introduction to Personality Psychology

Introduction to Personality Psychology

  • Free, contributions written by top researchers and regularly updated, language accessible to lay reader (Jenn Lodi-Smith, Canisius College)

Personality Psychology

The Personality Puzzle

  • Good mix of theory and research, both classic and contemporary. Writing is clear and engaging. (Christopher Soto, Colby College)