There’s no denying tailored threads or a fitted outfit can make someone look a million bucks. But new research suggests it’s not just your attractiveness that gets a big boost.
A study published in Nature Human Behaviour by Princeton University found that people are also judging your level of competence based off what you wear, and they’ve already made up their decision within milliseconds.
Scientists orchestrated nine studies where people were asked to rate the competence of faces wearing different outfits.
Those who were rated more competent typically wore clothes that were seen as “richer,” regardless of the type of clothing – t-shirt, jumper or other threads.
“Poverty is a place rife with challenges. Instead of respect for the struggle, people living in poverty face a persistent disregard and disrespect by the rest of society,” said study co-author Eldar Shafir, Professor in Behavioural Science and Public Policy at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
“We found that such disrespect — clearly unfounded, since in these studies the identical face was seen as less competent when it appeared with poorer clothing — can have its beginnings in the first tenth of a second of an encounter.”
“Wealth inequality has worsened since the late 1980s in the United States. Now the gap between the top 1 per cent and the middle class is over 1,000,000%, a mind-numbing figure,” added lead author DongWon Oh, a fellow in New York University’s Department of Psychology.
“Other labs’ work has shown people are sensitive to how rich or poor other individuals appear. Our work found that people are susceptible to these cues when judging others on meaningful traits, like competence, and that these cues are hard, if not impossible, to ignore.”
For the study, volunteers were shown images of 50 faces – the clothes they wore were first rated as “richer” or “poorer” by an independent group of judges.
They were then asked to rate the competence of the faces they saw on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 9 (extremely). Even when participants were told to ignore what the person was wearing, results were consistent: those with clothing perceived as “richer” were seen as more competent.
Just another reason not to be lazy with your outfit choice…