How much difference can a lab coat make? How about a doctor's coat, or a painter's coat? They're all the same coat – or at least they were all the same coat during an experiment conducted in 2012. But researchers discovered the way we're dressed can change the way we act, or even the things we are able to do.

A Stroop test relies on our hesitation in the face of the Stroop effect. Imagine a wall of color words like red, green, blue, yellow. The words are also written in different colors, but they don't match up with their printed colors, so the word "red" will be printed in green, and so on. Our recognition of simple, common words is so immediate that when we are asked to pick out all the "greens," people will hesitate if the word "green" is printed in yellow ink. The mismatch between the color people see and the color people read gets to them.

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This task is not hard, but doing it for a while does put a strain on the attention. That is where the lab coats come in. First researchers pretested people, asking about their attitudes towards certain types of clothing. They found that lab coats were associated with "attentiveness and carefulness." They asked people to slip on the coat (or not) and found that people in the coat "displayed more selective attention" than people not wearing the coat. What's more, people who wore the doctor's coat and lab coat managed to pay attention better than people who wore a "painter's coat." Shrugging on the coat of someone who is required to give attentive care to their tasks actually made people give attentive care to their task.

It would be interesting to see if this worked long-term. I have a feeling that, after a few days, people would drop back to normal attentiveness no matter what they were wearing. But perhaps they'd acclimate to a new level of attention. What do you think?

Image: Lab 15 - Lab Coats.

[Source: Enclothed Cognition]

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