Vote at the end of this article: which costume should I wear for one day???
This is a fun exercise – just wear a specific uniform for one day and observe people’s reactions.
If you dress in casual outfit with pullovers and “mom jeans”, you might feel ‘normal’, but people will take you much more serious when you are wearing a suit with tie.
Thus, we are actually talking about another concept here: the so-called Thin-Slice.
In “Blink“, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the concept of a “Thin Slice“. If you meet someone or see something for the first time, you make a snap judgement within seconds whether you trust him and have sympathy for him or not. It’s the reason why we dress our best when we go for a job talk. Despite our individual achievements, we know that first impressions count.
Thin-slices can be very powerful:
In 1983, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles agreed to buy a kouros from the 6th century BC. A kouros is the upright statue of a naked man with one leg forward and the arms to his sides.
The museum did intensive scientific analyses to verify the age of the statue and concluded that it was an original work. However, several archeologists and art dealers that actually dug out sculptures all said within seconds that the statue was a fake. To them, it looked like it had never been in any ground. Stunningly, they were right, despite the scientific “evidence”.
This snap judgement even has a physiological base:
In an experimental setting, people chose to turn over cards from blue or red decks.
Each card offered either a win or a loss of money. The participants had to try maximizing their winnings.
And there was a twist.
While the cards from the blue decks offered you either a modest win or a small loss, the red cards had a much bigger payout with an equally dramatic loss. So much so that if you wanted to win eventually, you needed to turn over blue cards only. How long did it take people to figure out the pattern? After 50 cards, people started getting a hunch, and after 80 cards, almost everyone had figured the pattern out.
Here is the interesting part: The researchers measured the participants’ skin conductance. Our sweat glands become active when we are stressed, changing the skin’s physical properties. Interestingly, skin conductance changed already after the 10th card!
That suggests that while we make a decision, our body has already made a judgement that our conscious mind is not aware of.
This also means that people make a quick judgement based on the clothing or costume you wear.
And it’s not only other people who react differently to you – you yourself will feel different when you wear certain clothing. In a recent study, participants that wore a scientists or doctor’s coat could focus better and were more attentive to timed tasks than those that wore a painter’s coat.
And from my own experience, I know that when I have my lab coat on, I automatically become more focused and “business-like” or “professional”. And just safety goggles alone are not enough!
#1 – Lab Coat
It’s funny. When I wear the coat, I do not even want to write or sit in front of my computer. It makes me feel like an actual experimenter. And when I don’t wear a coat, my writing is easier, but lab work is less efficient. How might other people react if they see me with a lab coat and goggles in public? They may wonder where there is a lab close by. Now, they would not think I am crazy. We are in New York, baby!
#2 – Firefighter
Because of my built of 6′ 4″, I have sometimes been specifically asked at work to help with lifting a heavy item or turn a stuck screw.
I sometimes see firefighters in full uniform shopping in the Grocery store around the corner. You notice that people take their distance, yet look at them with sympathetic eyes. I think in today’s societies, firefighters are looked at as heroes, especially in the US and of course, specifically New York City.
So if I wear a firefighter’s uniform, will I be asked to help out more? I myself would almost feel bad wearing a uniform without actually being a firefighter. It seems to me that you have to earn the right to wear a such a uniform.
#3 – Astronaut
Now that would probably make people watch. It would be a pretty elaborate uniform, and I can imagine it being great fun. Maybe I could let people know that my space capsule has just landed in the Hudson River and I am looking for the next flight out of New York.
#4 – Benjamin Franklin
Would people think I am just reenacting the past? Or would they actually stop and look and maybe even engage? If you are curious about Benjamin Franklin, you can check out my review of his autobiography.
#5 – Rock star, e.g. Gene Simmons.
For that costume, you’d have to have boots, maybe leather pants, a suit and T-shirts. Long hairs are a bonus, maybe some fake tattoos if you don’t have them – definitely jewelry. And even though there are drummers, you’d have to have a guitar. If you engage people, how would they react?
#6 – Hippie.
Not just some urban hipster. A complete seventies hippy. With bandana, sunflowers on your shirts and flowers in your hair, plus acoustic guitar. Like these guys/gals:
#7 – Pilot.
This is a mild costume, because you do see pilots in public. Would you feel different in such a uniform? Maybe a bit more powerful because pilots have a specific ranking system?
#8 – Repairman/Hard Hat Guy
Would people ask you for help if you run around and look like you could just build the next house for them?
#9 – Scuba diver.
You could pretend you just climbed out of the East River. And tell people about a project where you are trying to turn the island of Manhattan around, as some hoaxsters may or may not have claimed in the 19th century.
#10 – Robin Hood/Arrow or any other vigilante/superhero costume.
How would people react? Would they think you are going to a party? Or would they wonder if there was more behind it?
#11 – Wheelchair bound
That is not a real costume, but it would be great and probably quite humbling to see how life works out if you are not as mobile.
#12 – Jedi Knight or Sith Lord.
Though people may think you are a marketing prop for the new star wars franchise. You’d probably be a hero for the kids in any case.
If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.
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