Axel M. Burger, Herbert Bless
Cognitive consequences of formal clothing: the effects of clothing versus thinking of clothing

Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 2017: 2, issue 2-3, pp. 228-252
ISSN: 2374-3603 (print); 2374-3611 (online)

This research aimed at testing whether the association of formality of clothing with mental abstraction found in prior research depends on whether individuals are (made) aware of the formality of their clothing prior to measuring mental abstraction. In two preregistered studies participants estimated the formality of their clothing and performed an action identification task (Study 1) or categorization task (Study 2) as measures of mental abstraction. In addition, we varied the order of assessing formality of clothing and mental abstraction to manipulate the accessibility of formality of clothing before completing the mental abstraction tasks. When assessing formality of clothing prior to mental abstraction we did not obtain a reliable correlation so that the assumed decrease of this relation in the reversed order condition could not be tested. When pooling the data of both experimental conditions, the results of Study 1 support the hypothesis that formality of clothing is positively correlated with mental abstraction and are compatible with the hypothesis of a causal mechanism where formality of clothing influences mental abstraction through changes in subjective social status and power. Study 2 did not yield evidence for a positive correlation between formality of clothing and mental abstraction.