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Does Clothing Have an Impact on Social Interactions

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Does Clothing Have an Impact on Social Interactions:

An Observational Study in the Classroom

There are many reasons why we choose to wear a particular article or style of clothing. Many of us consider our choice in clothing as an extension of our identity. While many others pick items from their wardrobe that reflect their current mood. There are also many times when we choose to dress a certain way in anticipation of being in a particular social setting. Even people who don't seem to bother with matching clothes or wearing a designer label or walk around wearing clothes that are torn and dirty, are making a statement. What remains to be examined is whether or not there is a clear relationship between the clothing we wear and our social interactions.

The implications of such a relationship could lend itself to a variety of benefits. Imagine knowing that if you are dressed a particular way; you are more likely to get better service in a restaurant. We already know that when showing up for a job interview, there is certain dress attire that will make you more likely to get the job. Why do you think that when you're single and going out, you tend to spend more time getting ready and dressed up? The answer is because we associate first impressions and attraction to our physical appearances.

A variety of studies using empirical reasoning in many different settings, have tried to establish a relationship between the two. Pamela Regan of California State University, Los Angeles was cited in the Washington Post as saying "First, people need to dress appropriately - if you want to be treated well, then dress the part," after she concluded an observational study of shoppers, the service they received and the way they were dressed. Published in the Psychological Reports, 2002 her study titled "Customer Service As A Function of Shopper's Attire'" revealed that upon entering a store, it took more than 20 seconds longer for an employee to approach a shopper dressed in gym clothes, as opposed to one dressed as if she were on her way to work. She concluded, "Clothing, like other aspects of appearance, seems to exert at least some influence on how we are perceived and treated by others," (204).

For our particular study, we wanted to examine the relationship between the dress of a student and their participation in class as well as whether it made a difference in their interactions with the professor. As dress is important in the job setting, social setting, and even consumer setting, the participation of students in class as well as their relationship with their professors has a strong impact on their success in college. It for this reason that the following study is worth examining and has much relevance to the human world. Its possible implications may also give helpful strategies for current and prospective classroom students to better succeed in their studies.


Participants and Study Design

Undergraduate students in the general education requirement class for Literature participated in this study. The class was selected as it was currently being taken by each of the researchers and was felt to be a class that heavily relied on class participation. The study was conducted during a regular class meeting and consisted of 92 students assigned to one of two groups (n = 1) for those dressed up and those dressed down (n = 2). Dressed up was operationally defined as a student wearing dress pants, khakis, skirts, suits, dress shirts, sweaters and no sneakers. Dressed down was operationally defined as jeans, sweats, t-shirts, etc... For this study there were 35 students grouped as dressed up and 57 as dressed down.

Each participant was also categorized as male (n = 1) or female (n = 2). This study had 35 males and 57 females. Of the males, 12 were dressed up and 23 dressed down. In the group of females, 23 were dressed up and 34 were dressed down. During this naturalistic observational study, each researcher recorded how many students there were, how many males or females there were, how they were dressed, how many times they raised their hand to answer a question and how many times the professor called on them to answer.


The results revealed a relationship did exist between the dress of the participant and the number of times they raised their hands. A point-biserial correlation was calculated as the variable of dress was dichotomous and the number of times they raised their hands was a continuous variable. This test revealed a negative correlation where rpb



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