Simply dressing up can boost your productivity

Researchers have found that putting on more formal clothing boosts cognitive processes

Man pulling on a chain-like tie lighting up his head

(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is frequent advice for ambitious employees looking to move up the ladder. And while your choice of wardrobe can be an important signal to your colleagues of how seriously you take your job, it may also be having a more direct effect on the quality of the work you do.

That’s the finding of a joint study by researchers at Columbia University and California State University. In five different scenarios, they measured their subjects on a set of cognitive tasks, and controlled for the formality or casualness of their clothing, instructing subjects to bring “clothing you would wear to a job interview” to change into.

The study subjects who donned more formal clothing turned out to have a moderate but statistically meaningful edge when it came to abstract processing—they completed sorting tasks faster and excelled at certain types of problem solving. The findings conclude that dressier clothing likely contributed to the participants’ feelings of being powerful, which helped them work better, faster.

So it turns out “Power Suit” isn’t just an expression: it’s a literal thing you can put on to boost your productivity.