How Important Might It Be for Religious Leaders to Wear Symbolic Garments?

Our research on enclothed cognition suggests that it might be important for religious leaders to wear symbolic garments not only because of the impressions they intend to convey to others, but also because of the influence the garments have on the leaders themselves.

Enclothed cognition means that clothes can exert influence on the way the wearer feels, thinks, and behaves through the symbolic meaning associated with the clothes. Many pieces of clothing carry a symbolic meaning: For example, the robe of a judge signifies justice, an expensive suit signifies power, and a white lab coat signifies a scientific focus and attentiveness. Therefore, to the extent that a religious leader associates his or her symbolic garment with faith, dedication, and assuming a responsible leadership role in the religious community, the leader may indeed be more effective at carrying out his or her tasks and inspiring followers when wearing this kind of attire. In the end, our research suggests that the specific effects of wearing a symbolic garment will depend on the idiosyncratic value that the wearer attributes to it.

Adam Galinsky is the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management and Hajo Adam is a postdoctoral fellow at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Category: Q&A


2 Responses

  1. If religious leaders not wear symbolic garment no one respect them.We obey the instruction of police because he wear symbolic dress of authority, same is true of judges,and all authorities figure.

  2. This sadly is true. However a Christian leader is to be led by the Holy Spirit and the garment he is wearing should not matter.

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