Enclothed Cognition and the Importance of Costuming

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast called “Business Lunch with Roland Frasier” in which Roland interviewed a man named Todd Herman. Todd Herman is a consultant and life coach for athletes and business leaders and on this podcast he talked about a concept he had developed early in his career of having an “alter ego” to help him be more confident, articulate or perform better in a business environment. A technique he used to feel smarter and more articulate was to wear some non-prescription glasses, kind of a reverse Clark Kent. It might sound silly, but it worked. He was able to overcome some of his own insecurities about not being taken seriously in a business setting.

Later after helping a bunch of professional athletes he realized that he wasn’t alone. Many high performing individuals assume a persona when working or competing and it helps them reduce limiting behaviors and thoughts while also accentuate their traits they need. Todd goes on to talk about 2012 psychology study from Northwestern University by Hajo Adam and Adam D.Galinsky about a concept called “enclothed cognition” . I realized that when I was in college I had also heard about this study in one of my psychology classes (I majored in psychology, now I make larp stuff…anyway). Essential the study comprised of three randomly assigned groups of people, and each group was tasked with completing an attention puzzle, this puzzle:

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You’ve probably seen this puzzle pop up on social media at least once, and if you’re anything like me it kinda makes your brain hurt. Anyway, so one group in the study wore their regular clothes and completed the puzzle (control group), another group was given a white coat and told it was a painters coat, the third group was given the exact same coat and told it was a doctors coat. Remember, all the groups were randomly assigned, and the only difference between the two experimental groups was that they were told the coat was. The group that was told they were wearing a doctors coat showed a significant increase in their ability to solve the puzzle with less mistakes and in a shorter time.

So, wow, pretty cool right? Well if like me and you’re a psychology nerd and you make costumes for a living then it’s extra cool. It’s not much of a leap to think that when we wear our larp costumes we might not only pretend to think and act differently, but we actually do think differently. My costume definitely helps me get into character, and to stay in character. I think the idea is perfectly summed up by this comic by artist n00b Mama


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When we wear a costume, especially a good costume or one that we really feel is the character’s clothes we can more easily inhabit that character’s life.

So, what if we can harness this power of costume in our larp life, we might be able to harness it a bit in our professional life. Maybe there is a small piece of costuming from your favorite larp character that you can wear in your day-to-day life. A ring, bracelet, necklace or something that is small but significant to you. Adopt a characteristic you admire in your character as part of your real life self, who knows, maybe you’ll be a real life hero too! Unless your larp character is a psychopath, or an emotional wreak, maybe leave those traits in the larp.

For more info about Enclothed cognition, there’s a great video by Extra Credits on this topic as it relates to video games: