A couple of years ago, I described a study from California State University, Northridge showing that people who dress formally at work 1) feel more powerful but less connected and 2) tend to favor abstract reasoning over concrete facts.

That squared with my own experience in business, which is that people who wear business suits all the time usually aren't creative thinkers, especially in industries and environments where formal dress isn't required.

In that post, I was specifically referring to your typical businessman rather than businesswomen who, according to numerous studies, are (on average) more intelligent and creative their male counterparts. However, since the Cal State study was gender-neutral, I wrote the post that way.

Today, however, I ran across another study, this one published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. As reported in the New York Times, the social scientist Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks

"randomly assigned people to dress and act professionally or casually, and then tracked their mimicry of a specific interpersonal cue."

Since the ability to read interpersonal cues is characteristic of a high Emotional Quotient, the study was essentially measuring whether how you dress influences your level of cluelessness.

The study revealed that one group of people were adversely affected (became more clueless) when dressed professionally: Protestant men. Again from the New York Times:

"When Protestant men dressed professionally and solved a business case, they mimicked this social cue at half the rate of those who wore Hawaiian garb and generated vacation ideas. The attire and task had no impact on women and non-Protestant men: They caught the cues regardless of what they were wearing and doing."

In other words, wearing a suit at work and then doing work-related activities makes men (and only men, specifically men from the "Protestant Work Ethic" culture) more clueless when it comes to connecting with other people.

Published on: Mar 22, 2017
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