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Secret to appear more competent hidden in clothing

Secret to appear more competent hidden in clothing

People tend to instantly judge others as more competent if they come dressed in "richer" clothing, says a study that warned that such economic cues are hard to ignore.

In nine studies conducted by researchers, people rated the competence of faces wearing different upper-body clothing.

Clothing perceived as "richer" by an observer led to higher competence ratings of the person pictured than similar clothes judged as "poorer," the researchers found.

Given that competence is often associated with social status, the findings suggest that low-income individuals face hurdles in relation to how others perceive their abilities – simply from looking at their clothing.

"Instead of respect for the struggle, people living in poverty face a persistent disregard and disrespect by the rest of society," said researchers. "We found that such disrespect can have its beginnings in the first tenth of a second of an encounter," they added.

The researchers began with images of 50 faces, each wearing clothes rated as "richer" or "poorer" by an independent group of judges.

Based on those ratings, the researchers selected 18 black and 18 white face-clothing pairs displaying the most prominent rich-poor differences.

Participants were then presented with half of the faces wearing "richer" upper-body clothing, and the other half with "poorer" clothing. The researchers found that across the studies faces were judged as significantly more competent when the clothing was perceived as "richer."

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