The Thinking Jacket: A New Trend

(Photo: !/_PeacePlusOne)

A new paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology finds that elementary school teachers worldwide might want to start encouraging students to put on their “thinking coats” instead of “thinking caps.”  

Researchers Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky found that “wearing a white lab coat — a piece of clothing associated with care and attentiveness — improved performance on tests requiring close and sustained attention.”  The researchers found no effects when the coat was identified as a painter’s coat.  “The main conclusion that we can draw from the studies is that the influence of wearing a piece of clothing depends on both its symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing the clothes,” write the authors. “There seems to be something special about the physical experience of wearing a piece of clothing.”  

Adam and Galinsky point out that their research raises interesting questions: “Does wearing the robe of a priest or judge make people more ethical?  Does putting on the uniform of a firefighter make people act more courageously? And perhaps even more interestingly, do the effects of physically wearing a particular form of clothing wear off over time, as people become habituated to it?”

Eric M. Jones

Absolutely! But there are Soooo many aspects to this. Wearing a particular garb is like an actor who BECOMES the character when dressed and made-up as the character. Not hard to find witnesses for this.

All costume has a magic to it: Any business person will tell you that wearing that $3,000 suit confers power that is hard to achieve otherwise. Any woman will tell you that wearing those Manolo Blahniks does something that is hard to describe.

Does it wear off? Yes, but what doesn't?

Shane L

Wonderful research!

How about school uniforms? I had to wear a fairly simple uniform from 12 to 18; now I am wondering if this uniform actually had a role to play in my attitude towards learning during school hours.


Having worked as a white-lab-coated chemist for a few years, I can tell you that any positive effect definitely wears off!
Also that most practicing chemists seem to take some pride in how foul their labcoat looks, your coat needs to look like it's seen some action so you can maintain credibility with your peers.


Any plebe at West Point will tell you the answer is emphatically yes. When I first put on that dress grey, the upperclassmen made it clear that I was also putting on 178 years of tradition in the long grey line.


Is this not definitive evidence of the placebo effect?
It's not that the effect wears off, but that you build up a tolerance.


The effect changes over time, yes, but I wouldn't have said it 'wears off.' From my perspective, the special garment worn for a special purpose becomes a repository for that aspect of my character. Like a lab coat that, over time, collects 'evidence' of the chemist's work, I have found that garments I wear for specific roles in my life tend to help me pull myself into those roles more and more fully with practice. This has been true, so far, of business suits, prayer shawls, sailing gloves, even the eyeglasses that I only wear to drive at night.

"Put on your thinking cloak" sounds to me like a magical act, and one with profound and wonderful effects.