With finals fast approaching, many students rely on more than just studying to increase their confidence when entering that final exam or presentation. Some students exercise before the final exam to increase endorphins; others eat a large breakfast for energy. One strategy that many have heard, but are often unsure of its validity, is to dress up for the exam period. Referred to as “dress for success,” this strategy is one of the lesser used resources, and yet one that is proven to be extremely beneficial.
While workout clothes make taking a test feel more physically comfortable, a study performed by Yale University found that dressing well can actually increase the chances for success by simply increasing one’s confidence.
The university gathered one hundred twenty-eight 18-32-year-old men of various backgrounds to engage in a mock negotiation over the sale of factory. The researchers sorted these men into three groups fighting over the lowest price for which to buy the factory: those who dressed up in suits, those who wore the standard casual clothes they came in, and those who wore sweatpants and t-shirts. In the end, the men who dressed up in suits conceded an average of only $830,000 off of their original price, compared with $2.81 million for those in sweatpants and $1.58 million for the neutrals.
Furthermore, Social Psychological and Personality Science published a study in 2015 that discovered that those dressed exceptionally well thought more about big picture ideas, similar to how CEOs think, and those dressed unimpressively reverted to the details, as those in lower positions typically do.
Women who enter interviews wearing power suits or other professional business attire are viewed as more competent and also appear more confident. It may help women feel more dominant and take leadership roles in their companies, according to NPR.
Most behavioral researchers find that the difference comes down to confidence. Dressing well makes one feel more powerful, encouraging himself or herself to take on the responsibility and mindset of successful people. Furthermore, dressing for success works better when the person is dressing better than his or her peers. Power is relative; when people wear clothes seen as professional in comparison, their aptitude for success increases.
Students taking exams or giving presentations who feel more confident will exude greater knowledge and competence that often turns itself into extrinsic results. Therefore, while your leggings and oversize sweatshirt might make you feel comfy and cozy during your exam, wearing those jeans and heeled boots might help you get that higher score for which you’ve been studying.