I never thought these words would leave my minimalist self’s mouth: maybe what you wear does matter. Read on for one intriguing research study + a fun tip for boosting your emotional intelligence practice.

(ps- want to get the little gift of Illuminate in your inbox every week? Treat yourself for free here.)

People generally associate doctors with attentiveness, but would wearing a doctor’s clothes really make you more attentive? In 2012, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published this research demonstrating that what you wear affects how you perform.

Researchers asked participants in this study to do an attention-related test (the Stroop task, for you psychology nerds…), and the researchers recorded their scores. Surprisingly, when the participants wore a doctor’s white lab coat, a symbol associated with attentiveness, they scored significantly better on the Stroop task. Wow– simply putting on a white coat made the participants significantly more attentive! But was it just the white coat? And did they really have to wear it to find an increase in attention? The researchers tried a few other variable tests:

What happened when the participants simply looked at the doctor’s white lab coat? The increase in attention disappeared.

What happened when the participants wore the exact same white coat, but it was described as a painter’s coat, rather than a doctor’s coat? The increase in attention disappeared.

To successfully increase attention, participants had to 1: Physically wear the white coat, and 2: associate the white coat with a symbol of attentiveness (the doctor).

I’m not suggesting we all walk around wearing white lab coats, but I imagine each of us could use this lesson to bolster our emotional intelligence goals. How could changing something you wear boost your own illuminating aspirations? 


The trick of converting what you’ve learned from this study to your real life emotional intelligence goals is this: you need to think of something wearable you already associate with your goal. Here’s how:

  1. Identify an EQ goal you’ve been working on. For me, it’s being less of a perfectionist.
  2. Brainstorm a wearable item that you already associate with your goal. What wearable item reminds you of patience, thoughtfulness, boldness, or whatever your goal may be? For example, when I think of someone who’s more willing to be creative and make mistakes, I think of some artsy, free-flowing shirt.
  3. Pencil into your calendar this week a time to find/make/borrow your wearable item. I think I have time to go to the thrift store tomorrow!
  4. Wear it + let us know how it goes! (Do you already have that “special something” you wear to feel differently? Share that, too!)


What’s your goal + your wearable item? When will you try on your wearable item?

How could you use this activity with other people in your life? Especially with kids, I think it would be fun to help them identify their goals + create something wearable to boost their efforts.

Why do you think the participants performed so much better on the Stroop task simply by changing an article of clothing? How else could you convince yourself that you’re capable of something greater? (maybe a daily affirmation?)

See you next week!

Illuminate is a weekly e-mail series that provides practical tips + galvanizing inspirations for practicing an emotionally intelligent life. In our time together, we’ll operate from the assumption that you have all the wisdom you need inside of yourself + that you have a purpose the world needs to see. We will explore the tools + techniques to illuminate your own inner wisdom and purpose. If you’d like to receive this free gift of goodness in your inbox every week, subscribe here.

Maria Jackson

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This