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Testing How Fashion Impacts the Behavior of Others Around Us

Difficulty
Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)

Abstract

There's an old saying that "the clothes make the man" (or woman, we're quick to add nowadays). How true do you think this is? Here's a project with one approach for finding out.

Objective

The purpose of this project is to see whether randomly selected people at a shopping mall respond differently when asked the time by someone dressed up as a "tomboy" or a "young lady."

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Last edit date: 2013-01-10

Introduction

Your clothing and appearance can say a great deal about you before you even begin to interact with someone. So much so that the science of "dressing for the part" has become an important factor for witnesses and defendents in the courtroom, job interviews, political candidates, and others who are trying to make a good first impression. This project tests the intersection of psychology and fashion, by investigating whether a change in clothing can truly make a difference in the way people respond to a subject.

Terms and Concepts

Fashion theory, non-verbal communication, psychology of clothes

Bibliography

During the 1970's there were many studies that were conducted on the influence of attire on others' perceptions of an individual making a request. The following graduate thesis offers a great summary of these research studies in the "Review of Literature" section and a detailed listing of sources in the "Bibliography:"
http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-04302001-182841/unrestricted/siwon_thesis.pdf

Materials and Equipment

  • Video camera
  • "Tomboy" outfit—jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes, baseball cap
  • "Young lady" outfit—skirt, blouse, dress shoes
  • Assistant to run video camera
  • Subjects for testing

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Experimental Procedure

Procedures:

  • Select a location to intercept a random sampling of people. Some possible locations are a busy street corner, a shopping mall, outside of a grocery store. Make sure you run the experiment at the same time of day in each of the locations.
  • In order to ensure a consistent review of each of the interactions, you should video tape each of the events.
  • Ask people the time dressed as a "tomboy." The next day, go back to the same location and ask people the time dressed as a "young lady."
  • Review the video, note down your results, and analyze the data.

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Variations

Asking to borrow small amounts of change, testing responses to different social stereotypes (the jock, the nerd, the businesswoman, the mom, etc.)

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