Monday, March 26, 2012

A Lab Coat By Any Other Name....

The human mind is a funny thing.  Being "mindful" equates to being aware and thoughtful and any malfunction and we say that person "needs to get his head examined". And yet over 100 years after the beginnings of psychology, we still don't know a lot about the human mind.
A recent term "enclothed cognition" found that something as mundane as wearing a white lab coat improved a person's performance on a test and improved attention span.  Well, sort of.  If the person associated the lab coat with something successful, deliberate, attentive and important, such as a doctor or scientist, the person wearing the lab coat took on those qualities.
However, since the human mind being, well, human, if the person was told that the lab coat was an "artist's coat" aka a smock, the results were that that person was inattentive.  Ha!

I find these results to be believable and quite interesting.  From this basic study, scientists are now considering "dressing for success" a little more seriously.

As a mother, writer, artist, cook, part time high school coach and general know-it-all, I say, "Are you kidding me?"
Look, speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that when we feel the part, we ARE the part.  Where did they think the expression "she wears many hats" come from? I mean, yes, accessories are important, but really, as humans we need all the motivation we can get.
Don't you feel more legitimate when you are dressed properly for the occasion? Won't you do better work when dressed properly?

I chuckle when I read the results of this study because on of my jobs at work is to order lab coats for all the employees.  Sometimes I lend a hand in the shop, so I have my own lab coat at work and like all the employees, my name is embroidered in the left hand side.
Funny, because when I am wearing my lab coat, I have deep pockets where I can put tools, measuring equipment, a pencil, etc.  I am more prepared than when I am not wearing it, when I have to carry the supplies or set them down and take time to find them.  When I am wearing my lab coat, I am more efficient.  I not only look the part, I AM THE PART!
When I am coaching tennis, I wear a whistle for drills, tennis shoes for ease of motion, my clothing allows me to move freely and with flexibility so I can demonstrate various maneuvers.
When I cook at the restaurant, I wear an apron. I keep a pen in my pocket and a kitchen towel draped around my apron belt.
I am most productive and focused when doing these tasks because I am prepared.  My clothing is crucial in these situations to allow me to accomplish these tasks.
But, the point of the study isn't that they lab coat makes the wearer more productive, but rather it convinces them that they are more productive.

Is it like the Emperor's new clothes scenario? Could that be that simple that it is a case of the Emperor believing he is wearing fancy duds, when in fact he is so foolish that others have convinced him of the case?

I suspect that it isn't one or the other.  Yes, wearing proper clothing is like using the proper tool and makes the job more efficient and allows the hard working user to be most productive.  But, I also believe that there is an element of pride and confidence that goes along with looking appropriate, tailored and official that should't be overlooked either.

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