Tag Archives: appearance

How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Linda A. Jackson

Perceived attractiveness was correlated with perceived competence and likeability in a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda A. Jackson, John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge.
Physically attractive people were seen as more intellectually competent.

Nancy Etcoff

Similarly, women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on attractiveness, competence, likeability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds in research by Harvard’s Nancy L. Etcoff, Lauren E. Haley, and David M. House, with Shannon Stock of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Proctor & Gamble’s Sarah A. Vickery.

Models without makeup, with natural, professional, “glamorous” makeup

However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likeability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Etcoff’s team concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic judgments because attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”

Most people recognize the bias in assuming that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, yet impression management remains crucial in the workplace and in the political arena.

-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?

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Plastic Surgery Changes Perceived Personality Traits

Michael J. Reilly

Michael J. Reilly

People often infer others’ personality attributes from visual cues, called facial profiling by Georgetown University Hospital’s Michael J. Reilly, Jaclyn A. Tomsic and Steven P. Davison, collaborating with Stephen J. Fernandez of MedStar Health Research Institute.
This cognitive shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

These researchers asked raters to evaluate photographs of 30 different women shown with neutral facial expressions.

Each rater judged 10 images, including five (5) photographs before the person had plastic surgery procedures and five (5) images following surgical procedures including:

  • Chin implant,
  • Eyebrow-lift,
  • Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
  • Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
  • Neck-lift,
  • Rhytidectomy (face-lift).

Michael Reilly-Preoperative-Postoperative photos

These procedures resulted in cosmetic improvements to eyes and mouth, two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions.

The raters were not informed that some people in the photos had plastic surgery procedures, and they were asked to evaluate each photograph on a 7-point scale for perceived:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Extroversion,
  • Likeability,
  • Risk-seeking,
  • Social skills,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Attractiveness.

Michael Reilly - Pre-Post 2Raters assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity to the images following plastic surgery compared with pre-surgery image ratings.

The research team concluded:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness…patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had … improved trustworthiness...

“The corner of the mouth is … diagnostic … for … happy and surprised expressions and …  the perception of personality traits, such as extroversion.

“…upturn of the mouth and fullness in the cheeks can make a person look more intelligent and socially skilled.

“… patients undergoing a facelift procedure … are found to be significantly more likeable and socially skilled postoperatively.”

Volunteers in a different study attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they perceived a similarity to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento.

Christopher P. Said

Christopher P. Said

Neutral faces that were rated as positive resembled typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resembled facial displays of disgust and fear.

Faces viewed as threatening resembled facial expressions of anger.
These trait inferences resulted from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems.

Nicu Sebe

Nicu Sebe

Faces that resemble typical emotional expressions can lead to misattributed personality traits and biased impressions.

However, these judgments can change for the better after plastic surgery.

-*To what extent do people’s personality traits seems different following plastic surgery?

-*How often are people treated differently following plastic surgery?

*What are ways to avoid confusing emotional expressions with personality traits?

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Defining Elusive Elements of “Executive Presence”

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Communication, “Gravitas”, and Appearance were most-frequently cited attributes of Executive Presence in a study by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation.

Gavin Dagley

Interviews with 34 professionals, conducted by Perspex Consulting’s Gavin Dagley and Cadeyrn J. Gaskin, formerly of Deakin University, identified more elements than Hewitt’s proposed triad of qualities.

Caderyn Gaskin

Most executives described as having “presence” were men, and five “presence” characteristics were observable during initial contact:

  • Status and reputation, similar to “gravitas” discussed by Hewitt,
  • Physical appearance, also mentioned by Hewitt,
  • Confidence,
  • Communication ability, included in Hewitt’s “presence” triad,
  • Interpersonal engagement skills.

Five additional presence attributes emerge during repeated contacts that lead to evaluations over time:

  • Interpersonal integrity,
  • Values-in-action,
  • Intellect and expertise,
  • Outcome delivery,
  • Coercive power.

These qualities combine in different ways to form four presence “archetypes”:

  • Positive presence, based on favorable impressions of confidence, communication, appearance, and engagement skills plus favorable evaluations of values, intellect, and expertise,
  • Unexpected presence, linked to unfavorable impressions of confidence plus favorable evaluations of intellect, expertise, and values,
  • Unsustainable presence combines favorable impressions of confidence, status, reputation, communication, and engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values and integrity,
  • “Dark presence” is associated with unfavorable perceptions of engagement skills plus unfavorable evaluations of values, integrity, and coercive use of power.

Philippe De Backer

Philippe De Backer

Another typology of executive presence characteristics was identified by Sharon V. Voros and Bain’s Philippe de Backer.
They prioritized elements in order of importance for life outcomes:

  • Focus on long term, strategic drivers,
  • Intellect,
  • Charisma, combining confidence, intensity, commitment, plus demeanor of care, concern and interest in others,
  • Communication skills,
  • Passion,
  • Cultural fit,
  • Poise,
  • Appearance.

Fred Luthans

Fred Luthans

University of Nebraska’s Fred Luthans and Stuart Rosenkrantz with Richard M. Hodgetts of Florida International University investigated the relationship between “executive presence” and career “success.”
They observed nearly 300 managers across levels at large and small mainstream organizations as they:

  • Communicated,
  • Engaged in “traditional management” activities, including planning, decision making, controlling,
  • Managed human resource issues.

Richard Hodgetts

Richard Hodgetts

Communication and interpersonal skills elements of presence, coupled with intentional networking and political acumen enabled managers to rapidly advance in their organizations.

These managers were identified as “successful” leaders because they advanced more rapidly than “effective” managers, measured by participants’ organizational level compared with their organizational tenure.
In contrast, “effective” managers demonstrated greater managerial skill than “successful” managers, but were not promoted as quickly.

“Effective” managers spent most time managing employees’ activities including:

  • Motivating/reinforcing,
  • Managing conflict,
  • Hiring/staffing,
  • Training/developing team members,
  • Communicating by exchanging information,
  • Processing paperwork.

Stuart Rosenkrantz

Stuart Rosenkrantz

Subordinates of “effective” managers reported more:

  • Job satisfaction,
  • Organizational commitment,
  • Performance quality,
  • Performance quantity.

Differences in advancement and subordinate reactions to “successful” and “effective” managers were related to differing managerial behaviors.

Fred Luthans-Effective Managers“Successful” managers spent little time in managerial activities, but invested more effort in networking, socializing, politicking, and interacting with outsiders.
Their networking activities were most strongly related to career advancement but weakly associated with “effectiveness.”

Few managers were both “successful” and “effective”:  Only about 10% were among the top third of both successful managers and effective managers.
This suggests that effective managers who support employee performance may not be advance as rapidly as managers who prioritize their own career over their employees’ careers.

Gender differences in gravitas, communication, and political acumen may explain why men more often are seen as possessing “executive presence.”
Women who aspire to organizational advancement benefit from cultivate both gravitas and proactive networking to complement communication and interpersonal skills.

-*Which behaviors and characteristics are essential to “Executive Presence?”

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Acknowledge Potential Employer “Concerns” about Gender, Attractiveness to Get Job Offer

Although physically attractive people enjoy the advantage of others’ positive impressions, women applying for jobs in traditionally male jobs may be disadvantaged by female gender and attractive appearance.

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

The “beauty is beastly effect” is a hiring bias favoring men or less attractive women for “masculine” jobs, described by Yale University’s Madeline E. Heilman and Lois R. Saruwatari.

Lois Suruwatari

Lois Suruwatari

They found that attractiveness was an advantage for men seeking managerial and non-managerial roles, but attractive women had an advantage only when seeking lower-level, non-managerial roles.

Michelle Hebl

Michelle Hebl

Attractiveness and gender can be considered a “stigma,” just as disability, obesity, and race.
Rice University’s Michelle R. Hebl and Robert E. Kleck of Dartmouth College reported that people in these categories can reduce hiring biases by acknowledging their “stigmatizing” characteristic during the interview.

Robert Kleck

Robert Kleck

Women who proactively addressed the employers potential concern about gender or appearance in a traditionally male role were rated higher in employment suitability in a study by University or Colorado’s Stefanie K. Johnson and Traci Sitzmann, with Anh Thuy Nguyen of Illinois Institute of Technology.

This proactive approach buffered the impact “hostile sexism” while increasing “benevolent sexism’s” link to employment suitability ratings.

Stefanie Johnson

Stefanie Johnson

Evaluators said they assumed that these candidates possessed more “masculine” traits than other female candidates.
These assessors were less likely to negatively evaluate these women for behaving in contrast to traditional gender role norms.

Traci Sitzmann

Traci Sitzmann.

-*How effective you found “pre-emptive objection-handling” in workplace negotiations?

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Gender Transitions Demonstrate Continuing Gender Differences in Pay, Workplace Experience

People who change gender demonstrate the impact of gender on workplace experience and compensation, while holding constant the person’s education and experience.

Two Stanford professors’ experience in gender transition highlight findings by University of Chicago’s Kristen Schilt.

Joan Roughgarden

Joan Roughgarden – Jonathan Roughgarden

Stanford’s Joan Roughgarden, was an evolutionary biologist for more than 25 years as Jonathan Roughgarden before she made her male-to-female (MTF) transition.
Known for her work integrating evolutionary theory with Christian beliefs (“theistic evolutionism”), she reported feeling less able to make bold hypotheses and no longer had “the right to be wrong.”

Her experience contrasts with Stanford colleague, neurobiologist Ben Barres, who made scientific contributions as Barbara Barres until he was more than 40.

Barbara Barres - Ben Barres

Barbara Barres – Ben Barres

After his female-to-male (FTM) transition, Ben delivered a lecture at the  Whitehead Institute, where an audience member commented, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but, then, his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Schilt surveyed FTM and MTF to compare earnings and employment experiences before and after gender transitions.
with questions similar to 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS) survey items:

  • Last job before gender transition,
  • First job after gender transition,
  • Most recent job.

Kristen Schilt

Kristen Schilt

Female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs) reported that as men, they received more authority, reward, and respect in the workplace than they received as women, even when they remained in the same jobs.

Height and skin color affected potential advantages enjoyed by FTM.

Tall, white FTMs experienced greater benefits than short FTMs and FTMs of color.
In contrast, MTF reported reduced authority and pay, and often harassment and termination.

University of Illinois’s Donald McCloskey, for example, was told by his department chair – “in jest” – that he could expect a salary reduction when he became Deirdre McCloskey.

Deirdre McCloskey

Deirdre McCloskey

However, salary reduction was no joke for MTFs in Schilt’s survey sample.
Participants reported significant losses of 12% in hourly earnings after becoming female.

Additionally, MTFs transitioned on average 10 years later than FTMs, delaying the loss of labor market advantages attributable to male gender.

FTMs, however, experienced no change in earnings or small positive increases up to 7.5% in earnings after transitioning to becoming men.

Any gender transition was associated with risks of harassment and discrimination, reported more frequently in “blue-collar” jobs, particularly for those with “non-normative” appearance and not consistently “passing” as the other gender.

These “naturalistic experiments” confirm continuing gender-based pay discrepancies.

-*To what extent have you observed these gender-linked differences in compensation and workplace credibility?

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How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

-*How accurate are inferences made from other people’s appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, teamedwith University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin, to investigate this question.

They asked volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likeability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured in full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

These findings suggest that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Judgments based on clothing cues were associated with less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
facial expression and posture enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

Observers can make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues, according to these findings.
Novelist John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany noted that “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter,” just as these researchers concluded.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”

Tom Peters

Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
Self-packaging can be considered “the shell of who you are” whereas self-presentation can be “what sets you apart from the crowd.

Jim Kukral

The goal of personal branding is to communicate intrinsic, important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging  like attire, business cards, speaking style, according to Jim Kurkal and Murray Newlands.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney investigated personal branding, presentation, and packaging

George Cheney

George Cheney

They referred to personal branding as “…self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis“ of complex rhetoric tactics that shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation identified potential biases facing women and members of minority groups who are expected to demonstrate executive presence.
Taken together, these analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing significantly affect professional opportunities and outcomes.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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Self-Perceived Attractiveness Shapes Views of Social Hierarchies

Nielsen Product SpendingCosmetic surgery is the fastest-growing medical expenditure in the U.S, and Americans spend more on personal grooming than on reading material.

Even during the recession of 2008, Americans spent at least $200 billion on products and services to enhance their appearances, according to Stanford’s Margaret Neale and Peter Belmi, now of University of Virginia.

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Personal appearance and attractiveness have been linked with likeability, perceived competence, income and more, and Neale and Belmi found further connections between people’s self-perceived attractiveness and their attitudes toward social inequality and hierarchies.

Attractiveness Bias2The team asked participants to write about a time when they felt more attractive or less attractive, and then indicate whether they agreed with statements such as, “Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups,” and “Lower wages for women and ethnic minorities simply reflect lower skill and education level.”

The researchers found that people who think they are attractive also think they have greater social standing, and believe that people are entitled to their social position based on their personal (“dispositional”) qualities.

Occupy 99As a result, people who rate themselves as attractive generally feel that people in lower social strata are there due to their characteristics or behaviors.
These beliefs are associated with less willingness to donate money to a social equality non-profit organization (the Occupy movement).

Peter Belmi

Peter Belmi

By contrast, people who thought they were less attractive also thought they belonged to a lower-status social group, and rejected existing social hierarchies.
They attributed unequal social status to external factors often beyond the full control of those in less prestigious social groups. One example is lack of access to quality education.

Unlike self-perceptions of attractiveness, empathy and integrity were not related to people’s views of their social class and others’ place in society.

-*How have you seen appearance affect acceptance or organizational hierarchy and philanthropic giving?

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Attractive Appearance Helps Men – but not Women – Gain Business Funding

Laura Huang

Laura Huang

Entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to economic growth with early investment by financial backers who trust the perceived business proposal’s viability and the founders’ previous experience.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Additional implicit criteria for new venture-funding include gender and physical attractiveness, asserted Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, Laura Huang of Wharton, MIT’s Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray.

Sarah Wood Kearney

Sarah Wood Kearney

Brooks and colleagues enlisted 60 experienced investors to:

  • Evaluate videos of 90 randomly-selected presentations by entrepreneurs at three pitch contests in the US,
  • Comment on presenters’ appearance and effectiveness.

Fiona E. Murray

Fiona E. Murray

Male presenters who were rated more attractive were 36% more likely to receive funding than men judged as less attractive, but there was no difference in funding rates for women based on attractiveness ratings.

In a separate study, investors evaluated identical pitches delivered by a man or a woman, and rated male-narrated pitches as more persuasive, logical and fact-based compared with the same presentation delivered by a woman.

These finding suggest that financial backers favor attractive male entrepreneurs, leaving women entrepreneurs – attractive or not – at a disadvantage in creating new businesses, jobs, and economic growth.

This finding underscores financial backers’ preference for male entrepreneurs’ proposals, based on attractive men’s greater perceived persuasiveness than women or less attractive men.

Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike

Previous blog posts have noted the “halo effect” of physical attractiveness leading to positive attributions of intelligence, competence, and likeability, originally described by Columbia’s Edward Thorndike.

Woods’ latest findings point to the double advantage enjoyed by attractive men seeking new venture funding.
Aspiring women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, continue to encounter significant unacknowledged disadvantages, not improved by physical attractiveness.

Eleanor Holly Buttner

Eleanor Holly Buttner

However, these findings were not confirmed by University of North Carolina’s E. Holly Buttner and Benson Rosen in their investigation of bank loan officers’ funding decisions.

Loan officers, who typically make funding decisions based on the business plan and interview with the entrepreneur, evaluated a:

  • Business plan or
  • Business plan plus a videotaped interview conducted by a loan officer with a male or female entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Bankers rated their likelihood of:

  • Recommending loan approval of the requested amount,
  • Making a counteroffer of a smaller amount, which they specified.

This study found no difference in funding decisions for male entrepreneurs compared with female entrepreneurs presenting the same business case.
In fact, loan officers made larger counteroffers to female entrepreneurs when considering both the business plan and the loan application interview.

Student volunteers’ loan funding decisions were compared with loan professionals, and the younger generation of lay people made larger counteroffers to the male entrepreneur instead of the female when they evaluated both the business plan and the loan interview,
Loan officers, in contrast, made significantly more cautious and conservative funding decisions than student participants.

Buttner and Benson recommended that female entrepreneurs ask to meet with loan officers to present their business proposals because this personal contact resulted in more successful funding of requested loans.

John Becker-Blease

John Becker-Blease

Another source of funding is “angel investors,” and Oregon State University’s John R. Becker-Blease and Jeffrey E. Sohl of University of New Hampshire found no difference in funding for male and female entrepreneurs.
They noted that women seek private investments substantially lower rates than men, but they are equally likely to receive investment.

However, when the “angels” are women, female entrepreneurs are more likely to seek financing and are as likely to receive the requested funding.

Jeffrey Sohl

Jeffrey Sohl

Women entrepreneurs may still face obstacles in starting new ventures,  a barrier shared with less attractive males.

-*How do you mitigate biases based on gender or attractiveness when asking for funding – for a business, initiative, or idea?

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Clothing Influences Thinking and Behavior, not Just Others’ Perceptions

A previous post highlighted the influence of the body on thinking, through “embodied cognition.”

Hajo Adam

Hajo Adam

An extension of this idea is “unclothed cognition,” the impact of clothing on thinking and behavior, according to Rice University’s Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University.

Adam and Galinsky considered the symbolic meaning of clothing and wearer’s physical experience by evaluating the impact of wearing a lab coat on participants’ task performance.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the experiments, volunteers said in a survey that they associated “attentiveness” and “carefulness” with “a lab coat.”
Next, participants completed a Stroop Test, a task that requires selective attention to differentiate words in incongruent colors (“red” presented in green letters), while wear a lab coat or their street clothes.

Volunteers performed better when they wore a lab coat than when they completed the same tasks while wearing street clothes.

In other experiments, Adam and Galinsky described the lab coat to some participants as a “doctor’s coat” and to others as a  “painter’s coat.”
Volunteers who wore a “doctor’s coatperformed better on sustained attention tasks and were better able to discriminate features in nearly-similar images, than those who wore a  “painter’s coat.” 

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis

Clothing’s symbolic meaning as visual communication can influence the viewer’s attributions and the wearer’s behavioral alignment with the role suggested by clothing, argued Joshua I. Davis of Barnard College, who studied the effect of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.

Sandra Forsythe

Sandra Forsythe

Clothing’s impact on others’ evaluation of the wearer was further detailed by Sandra Forsythe, now of Auburn University collaborated with University of Tennessee’s Mary F. Drake, and Charles E. Cox.
They videotaped simulated job interviews of women wearing various styles of dress, and found that more than 75 human resources professionals recommended hiring female job applicants who wore more “masculine” attire than those wearing other styles of dress.

Norah Dunbar

Norah Dunbar

Clothing’s influence on the viewers’ impression of others’ credibility was investigated by University of Oklahoma’s Norah E. Dunbar and Chris Segrin of University of Arizona guided by their colleague Judee Burgoon‘s expectancy violation theory.

Chris Segrin

Chris Segrin

Two instructors gave lectures in undergraduate college classes, wearing either expected “appropriate” attire for this role, or wearing unconventionally casual clothing.
The instructors also provided either high interpersonal support or less rewarding interactions.

Judee Burgoon

Judee Burgoon

Dunbar and Segrin found that students were less influenced by unexpected attire when the instructor provided more social rewards.
They suggested that interpersonal demeanor can be even more influential than clothing in determining impressions of credibility and likability.

Similarly, the impact of clothing on judgments of competence and achievement for both students and teachers in Ohio high schools was demonstrated in research by Bowling Green State’s Dorothy Behling with Elizabeth Williams.

Anat Rafaeli

Anat Rafaeli

Clothing’s influence on impression formation and related organizational dynamics is based on attributes, homogeneity and conspicuousness, posited Anat Rafaeli of Technion, and Boston College’s Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt

Clothing has been considered an important influence on others’ perception of the wearer, and Adam and Galinsky’s studies offer evidence that clothing can affect the wearer’s actual task performance.

-*How has clothing changed your workplace behavior and performance?
-*How do others treat you different depending on your attire?

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