What you wear can change your brain

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Clothing affects our mental processes and perceptions which can change our minds and the way we think, according to research by Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire.

When Professor Pine asked students to put on a Superman t-shirt there was a scientific reason behind the request. She wanted to know if the heroic clothing would change the students’ thinking. She found it boosted their impression of themselves and made them feel physically stronger. This, and other discoveries of how clothing can change our minds, is the topic of her new book called Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion.

Professor Karen Pine, from the department of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, explained: “When wearing a Superman t-shirt the students rated themselves as more likeable and superior to other students. When asked to estimate how much they could physically lift, those in a Superman t-shirt thought they were stronger than students in a plain t-shirt, or in their own clothing.”

This research, and other clothing research described in the book, shows how people’s mental processes and perceptions can be primed by clothing, as they internalise the symbolic meaning of their outer layers.

In Mind What You Wear, Professor Pine describes how women who were given a maths test performed worse when wearing a swimsuit than when wearing a sweater. She describes how putting on a white coat improved people’s mental agility, as their brain was primed to take on the mental capacities they associated with being a doctor.

Professor Pine’s book gives fascinating insights into the cognitive, social and emotional consequences of what we wear. Her previous research discovered that women are more likely to wear jeans when they are depressed. In this book she reveals that when women are stressed they wear less of their wardrobe, neglecting 90% of it, and the main reason women dress up is not to look attractive but to feel confident.

Professor Pine added: “As well as scientific research, my book also contains tips on how to feel happier and more confident with the right clothes, explaining not only that we are what we wear, but that we become what we wear.”


For more information, please contact Rebecca McAleese, University of Hertfordshire Press Office on 01707 286476, Email:r.mcaleese2@herts.ac.uk 

Notes to editors

Mind What You Wear is available from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 468 KB

Print Length: 38 pages

Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Language: English


About the University of Hertfordshire

The University is the UK’s leading business-facing university and an exemplar in the sector.  It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel.  The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,425 staff and a turnover of over £234 million. With a student community of over 25,100 including more than 2,900 overseas students from 120 different countries, the University has a global network of over 175,000 alumni.  It is also one of the top 100 universities in the world under 50 years old, according to the new Times Higher Education 100 under 50 rankings 2014. For more information, please visit www.herts.ac.uk Or follow us on Twitter @UniofHerts

Professor Karen Pine

Karen Pine is Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and co-founder of Do Something Different. From 2011-2014 she was also Professor in the Fashion Department of Istanbul Bilgi University. She has written a number of popular books including Sheconomics, the No Diet Diet, Love Not Smoking and Flex: Do Something Different and her research has been published worldwide. Karen speaks, writes about and researches topics designed to help people live better, happier and more fulfilling lives.




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