The magical effects of what you wear

Posted on March 12, 2012
Filed Under Magic, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

Bill Whitcomb pointed me to an article about how wearing lab coats make people smarter. It was also found that when volunteers wore other coats they didn’t do as well as on the tests. It was only when they were told that they were wearing lab coats that they performed better. So does this mean there’s something magical about lab coats?

Not at all. If anything what it really demonstrates is that people read meaning into items of clothing and associate specific behaviors with those items, which causes them to then embody those behaviors when they wear the clothing. In other words, there’s nothing inherent to a lab coat that makes a person smarter. It’s the person’s perception about the lab coat and what it imbues them with that causes them to associate intelligence with it. Scientists and doctors wear lab coats and generally we think those types of professions are populated by intelligent people. So a person puts on a lab coat and performs better, but the coat has nothing to do with it. That person could focus just as intently without the coat.But the perception associated with the coat is what makes all the difference. I put on the lab coat and because I associate specific attributes with it, suddenly I have access to those attributes.

Perception is a powerful tool, both in every day life and in magical workings. I’ve discussed using clothing to invoke specific traits or behaviors and this is a prime example of how this principle works. It’s similar, in my experience, to putting on a suit. You feel a sense of change, both in terms of how you perceive yourself and how other people perceive you. It’s magical in its own right, but its also perception. Understanding that distinction helps you also understand how to use perception as tool in its own right. That’s when you get into some interesting experimentation with perception and clothing, specifically in terms of how you can manipulate your own perception or even the perception of others based on how you present yourself.

One of the reasons I wear a hat with a multicolored feather is because when I go out in my professional clothing it sticks out. It’s an anomaly compared to everything else I’m wearing. It allows me to show my personality while also invoking the professional persona I’ve chosen to adopt. It’s fun for me, and I’ve experimented with it further just in terms of letting my “true” self shine through with people in professional settings. I actually think its helped business a bit. So I think if you experiment with clothing and your perception of it you’ll likely see similar results with what was discovered with the lab coats. Give it a try and let me know!

Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Affiliate Link) by Daniel Kahneman

In this book, the author explores intuition and rational thinking, in particular focusing on both the strengths and flaws of intuition. The author does a good job of presenting his research and reinforcing it with case studies. He makes it easy to understand the concepts. What I found most fascinating was how much we take for granted intuition in terms of what it tells even though it can be wrong. We don’t really question that and he explains why we don’t question it. This is a great book to read if you are interested in psychology or social behavior.