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Study: The Effect of Appearance on First Impressions
Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, in collaboration with Mathieson & Brooke Tailors, conducted a study in which over 300 adults (men and women) looked at images of a man and a woman for just 3 seconds before making 'snap judgements' about them. In some pictures the woman wore a skirt suit and in others a trouser suit of the same colour and fabric. After just a 3 second exposure the female in the skirt suit received more positive ratings than in the trouser suit.
Just a few of the snap judgements we're prone to make about others.
On what basis?
Many people including psychologists think it's all to do with facial features (cue Roberta Flack singing The first time ever I saw your face). Symmetrical faces and wide-apart eyes are good, anger is a no-no. But my latest research has revealed that clothes makes a huge difference to these first impressions. And the upshot of it all is (you'll like this one)....clothes can be a really marvellous investment!
We carried out the research at the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Mathieson & Brooke Tailors. Over 300 adults (men and women) looked at images of a man and a woman for just 3 seconds before making 'snap judgements' about them. In some of the pictures the man wore a made-to-measure suit. In others he wore a very similar off-the-peg suit bought on the high street. In some pictures the woman wore a skirt suit and in others a trouser suit of the same colour and fabric.
After just a 3-second exposure people judged the man more favourably in the bespoke suit. They rated him as more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner than when he wore a high street equivalent. Similarly the woman received more positive ratings in a skirt suit than in a trouser suit. Since both models' faces in the pictures were blanked out these impressions must have been formed after quickly eyeing what they were wearing.
Clothes say a great deal about who we are and can signal our social status to others. It even starts in childhood - one study found that teachers made assumptions about children's academic ability based on their clothing. And research has even hinted that women should dress more like men if they want to succeed. A study by Forsythe (1990) tested this using a mock interview for a management position. The more masculine the clothing worn by female applicants the greater the perception of their management potential. Fortunately, although it used a different methodology, my findings suggest the opposite.
After just a 3 second exposure the female in the skirt suit received more positive ratings than in the trouser suit. It's reassuring that women can dress in more feminine ways and still be taken seriously. Be careful about the plunging neckline or micro-skirt though, you can take things too far and other research shows provocative clothing is viewed as indicative of low professional status.