What clothes will make you look competent?(New York University et al.,2019)

Goal and Success

Purpose and Background of the Research

Past research has shown that humans are very sensitive to the wealthand poverty of others.
This research tested whether people use the wealth of others as ajudgmental indicator even when judging ability.
And it also studied how strong the tendency is to use wealth as ameasure of ability.

Research Methods

Type of ResearchRandomized controlled trial
Number of Experiments ConductedNine
Experiment outline
  1. The researchers prepared 50 photos of people dressed in various outfits.
  2. The participants in the experiment were asked to look at the photosand score how competent the person in each photo looked.

Research Findings

  • People who wore clothes that looked wealthy were more likely to bejudged to be more competent.
  • The participants in the experiment took only 0.1 seconds to determinethe abilities after looking at the photos.
  • Even though the researchers told the participants in the experimentthat the person in the photo was wealthy before they saw the photo,the participants judged his or her ability by his or herclothing.
  • Even when the same people changed their clothes, the participants inthe experiment judged their abilities by their clothing.
  • This study took a variety of steps to overcome the bias of judgingothers' abilities based on their clothing, but none wereeffective.


Typically, the following measures are effective in overcoming bias.

  • Recognize your bias
  • Have time to overcome your bias
  • Focus on overcoming your bias

However, in this experiment, none of these things were able to removethe bias by trying them.
In other words, that's how deeply this bias is programmed into thehuman brain.
Indeed, it's better for your survival if you can instantly see howwealthy your opponent is.

If you want to get rid of this bias, it would be better to evaluate aperson's abilities based on the information on paper alone, withoutlooking at their appearance.
In fact, academics have found that they can hire better scholars ifthey judge candidate's ability without interviewing them.
In other words, it's more effective to avoid bias, not to overcome it.


Reference PaperGrant et al., 2020
AffiliationsNew York University et al.
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