Enclothed Cognition; It’s like Magic!

My jet lag is finally over! Wahoo! It lasted for a good ten days. Today I feel much more like myself. I’m back in my body. My head is clearer, I’m more focused and I’m more optimistic. One of the things that has helped me a lot during hard transition periods like this and when I’m separated from Ram is staying busy. I make myself reminders and lists to check off. It’s amazing how many things I can come up with to make my life more organized and productive!

The main project I’ve been obsessing over since I got back, is simplifying my room; especially my clothes. I have so much stuff crammed into my small room. Every surface, closet, drawer, and shelf is packed. I feel like these things are suffocating me and weighing me down! It’s causing me more stress. I don’t need all of these things, yet I am so attached to them. I went through my clothes and got rid of two big bags. Most, if not all of the items I hadn’t wore in a year or more, yet they were still so hard to let go of. I feel like I’m giving away essential life resources; like my survival is dependent on being a chameleon.

I listened to a Ted Talk on the ten item wardrobe by Jennifer Scott and she gives advice that really helped me while going through my clothes. She suggests to ask yourself: Is it age appropriate? Does it fit? Does if reflect your personal style?

I am nowhere near a ten item wardrobe and I’m not really aiming to be. My goal is to have less items but of higher quality. I want variety, just not a warehouse. I want to feel like my clothes are in sync with who I am and what I aspire to be; grounded, healthy, confident, elegant, intelligent and happy.

I decided to do a little research on how what we wear affects us and I ran across the term embodied cognition. Embodied cognition is a growing research program that emphasizes the role our environment plays in cognitive processes. Cognitive processing is our “higher mental processes, such as perception, memory, language, problem solving and abstract thinking”. Cognition is embodied “when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body; when aspects beyond the brain play a significant role in cognitive processing”. Basically, embodied cognition is how our environment affects our thinking processes.

A wide range of research programs have gone in all sorts of directions exploring embodied cognition but, there is one specifically I want to mention. Two researchers, Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adam wrote an article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology about a term they came up with called “enclothed cognition”. Enclothed cognition is how our thinking (cognitive processing) is affected by what the clothing we wear symbolizes and how it looks on us.

I found a great short video that describes their enclothed cognition research. Things will make much more sense once you watch this little video.

by David McRaney, author of “You are Now Less Dumb”

Their research reminds me of how some children (and sometimes adults) become obsessed with an object or piece of clothing because they believe it gives them some kind of power, whither it be luck, strength, courage, etc.; turns out they were kind of right. Our clothing affects how we act, how we see ourselves, how we perform, how we feel and how we view the world. We might be empowered by our clothing or inhibited by them. If clothing has such an affect on us I think it’s fair to say, so does every other object, person, place or thing in our lives.

As I said earlier, I want my clothes to reflect who I am and who I want to be. Based on enclothed cognition I can literally wear clothes that will help me embody who I aspire to be. I can manipulate my physical environment to influence my thinking in a way that will help me achieve my goals. It’s like magic!

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting” -Ted Radio Hour: Episode Amateur Hour


If you want to read about embodied cognition:

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

American Physiological Association glossary

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy


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