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  • Writer's pictureGiana Kim

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

We’ve all come across times where we need to make a choice. From picking the outfit we’re going to wear to school to making life-changing decisions, we make decisions in our everyday lives. The psychology of choice explores why we (sub)consciously make the decisions we make and what motivates those decisions.

When making choices, we would think that having a variety of choices would make the decision-making process better and easier for us. However, recent research suggests that our ability to make decisions become easier when we are presented with fewer options. When people are faced with different choices that are similar to one another, such as brand, color, or taste, people tend to have a difficult time choosing. Even after making a choice, we don't feel as satisfied because our mind drifts to the other decisions we could've made.

This finding was first presented in 2000 by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. In their iconic experiment, they went into a grocery store and set up a booth of jam samples, and every few hours, they would change the selection of jams from 24 to 6. When there were 24 jams, 60% of customers would stop to get a sample, but only 3% of these customers would actually end up buying a jar. On the other hand, when there were 6 jams on display, 40% stopped by. Of these people, 30% bought a jar of jam!

The variety of choices were able to attract more attention, but in the end, fewer choices got them to purchase the jams.

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

What does being beautiful mean for you?

Well, let’s think about it. Scrolling through Instagram, you might believe that beautiful people are thin, tall, and blonde. But is this really beautiful?

For many people, there are often unrealistic beauty standards. For example, many women desire the pumped-up lips, the thigh gaps, and the yanked-in waist. Young children now grow up seeing all of these unrealistic beauty standards and quickly become cautious of their social image and what they look like on social media. We see pictures of models and actors and start to compare ourselves to others. The figures we see in media are, then, used for social comparison. People use images to check whether they are beautiful or socially accepted.

Social media was supposed to be used in a friendly way to communicate and to interact with others, but it has become something we sometimes use to bully and shame others.

Isn’t it ironic that the purpose of social media was to bring people together, but in reality, it can make someone feel really alone? According to a study conducted by the Girl Scouts of America in 2010,

Out of over 1,000 adolescent girls surveyed,

88% of the girls believed that the media puts a lot of pressure on them to be thin, 65% believed that the body image represented in the fashion industry is too skinny, and 60% said they compared their body to what they see in magazines.

This should not be happening. Girls should not be growing up worrying about the way they look. As a teenager today, I know what my peers feel when they are being pressured to look a certain way. If you make a game with impossible rules, kids would never be able to win no matter how hard they try and would be disappointed in themselves. Our society has created this impossible game causing kids to always look down on themselves, leading to eating disorders, depression, and even suicide.

We have to change our mindsets on what is supposed to be beautiful. Social media should be more diverse; people of all gender, all races, and all shapes should be called beautiful and not just the small group of people. There are many people who are defying the standards of beauty—this is the realistic future we should have.

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

​Think back to the days of playing dress-up—those moments when you slipped on your mother’s nicest dress or carefully slid your arms into your father’s fanciest jacket. Besides drowning in a sea of baggy cotton, what else did you feel? Did you walk with the grace of a ballerina? Experience a sudden rush of maturity? Notice a shift in your perspective? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place!

The reasoning behind your transformation lies in a concept called the enclothed cognition effect. Founded by psychologists Hajo Adams and Adam Galinsky, this idea is based on the notion that the clothing you wear may have a strong influence over the way you think and act. For example, in their 2012 study, Adams and Galinsky discovered that wearing a white lab coat described as a doctor’s coat tended to increase sustained attention, compared to wearing that same coat described as a painter’s coat. Because we perceive doctors as having a more heightened level of attention to detail, we begin to take on that same quality when dressed as a doctor.

But what does this mean for the average person?

Well, the majority of us wear casual and professional attire, so in designing my own study, I wanted to tap into the mindsets of the general public using frequently worn forms of clothing. While studies have analyzed the impact of attire on cognition, none have observed the role of professional and casual clothing in affecting adolescents’ self-perception, or the way they think about themselves. With this in mind, I sought to examine the influence of the enclothed cognition effect on self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Just as we identify doctors in their “white lab coats” as being more thorough and having a greater ability to focus, individuals in casual and professional attire also have perceived characteristics. Research has revealed that teachers and physicians dressed in professional, rather than casual attire, are rated as having a higher level of intelligence, scholastic ability, and credibility. Conversely, those in casual clothing are seen as being friendlier, more approachable, and more laid-back than those dressed formally.

Based on my readings, I hypothesized that compared to those in casual attire, professionally-dressed participants would display higher levels of (A) self-esteem, (B) self-efficacy, and (C) be more likely to demonstrate interest in applying for a higher level position.

For my study, I recruited 120 students from a suburban high school in New York and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: the control group, where participants wore whatever they were wearing at the the time, the casual group where they wore casual attire, and the professional group, where they wore professional clothing.

Once in their designated outfits, participants completed a shortened version of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the General Self-Efficacy Scale, and an additional self-designed question. I wondered if these feelings of esteem and efficacy might translate into an actual change in intended future behavior, therefore I asked students how likely they would be to apply for a new position that would require them to take on more responsibility and face greater challenges while rewarding them with a higher pay.

Simply changing the way you dress can have

a drastic impact on how you think about yourself.

Overall, my findings indicate that individuals dressed professionally exhibit significantly greater measures of self-perception, compared to those in both casual attire and their own clothing. By simply wearing professional outfits, participants had higher self-esteem, self-efficacy, and were more likely to say they would apply for the new position.

Simply changing the way you dress can have a drastic impact on how you think about yourself. Self-esteem and self-efficacy are extremely important in determining the judgement of your own worth, and they function as indicators of your beliefs in your ability to successfully achieve goals. Moreover, having a higher degree of self-perception can result in positive outcomes when encountering new experiences and interacting with others.

So, next time you pick out an outfit, think about how the clothes you wear may turn you into a different person!

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