When it comes to preparing for exams I can admit that there have been times when I have neglected to allot the necessary study time in order to be successful. However, despite the misallocation of study time, I have on occasion, done well on particular tests without studying properly. The question then arises as to how and where this unpredicted success came from? I’m sure that all of us can relate to this situation and tell a story of a time when we received a favorable surprise result on a test we surely expected to fail. One philosophy that I often carry with me on test day is the phrase “dress well, test well”. Regardless of how prepared I am I often find that I dress for success when it comes to test taking. In spite of the fact that this may seem rather unrelated, what if dressing well did have a direct correlation with test results for students who failed to study?
Although this idea is difficult to test, there have been experiments performed in an effort to prove whether or not dressing well equates to academic success. Northwestern professor Adam D. Galinsky conducted an experiment in order to test the hypothesis that dressing well allows students to achieve success on test day. One important aspect to this experiment is that Galinsky chose clothing based upon how it is symbolized and perceived. In this study, Galinsky chose lab coats which are generally associated with doctors and with that caution and intelligence. In order to conduct this experiment, Galinsky performed two separate tests. In the first, he divided students into two groups and told them to wear either a white doctors lab coat or regular street clothes. He then had both groups perform a test of focus and mental clarity. His findings were that those in lab coats did significantly better than those in street clothes.
In his second test, Galinsky took 74 students and divided them into three different groups. The first group was given white lab coats and told they were doctors coats, the second was given the same coats and told they were painters coats and the third simply looked at the “doctors” coats. The students then completed a test were they quickly wrote down differences between two pictures. The results were that the students in the doctors coats performed far better than the other two groups. Although this experiment specifically focused on test results when wearing a white doctors coat, it illustrates that clothing that symbolizes intelligence and prestige improve test results. This can then be further assumed that it correlates with wearing a suit or other luxury clothes that are associated with success. Much of this experiment was summarized by Carmel Lobello in an article providing a scientific argument to dress nicer at work.
In order to further provide evidence that dress can influence test results, an experiment was conducted by Professor Tracy L. Morris at West Virginia University. In her experiment, Morris had three individuals dress in either business professional (suit and tie), business casual (dress shirt and tie) or casual (jeans and and sneaker). She then had each individual give a controlled lecture to a group of students and afterwards asked the students what their perception of each speaker was. The results were that students believed that the speaker in business professional was most knowledgable about the lecture. This experiment strongly proves that dress can give others an enhanced perception of someone despite their level of intelligence. This can prove to be useful in a test situation because it could provide confidence to the test taker that might not be present if they were wearing sweats and an old T-shirt.
It it practical to say that dressing in clothes that symbolize success and confidence will help improve students ability to perform well on tests. However, it still remains indeterminate as to what exact clothes will do the trick. This is because clothes that symbolize these characteristics vary based upon the perception of the individual. Although a suit and tie might be the epitome of success to one person, it could be the opposite for another. However, regardless of what one may think is “successful” clothing, it can be said that wearing clothes that one is most comfortable in is the best approach when it comes to test day. So the next time you are thinking about lazily showing up to class on test day, think again and put on something that you are both comfortable and confident in. Whether you are prepared or not it can’t hurt to try.