Dressed to Influence: The Effects of Experimenter Dress on Participant Compliance

Anastacia E. Damon,
Arineh Sarkissian,
Cherrie Y. Cotilier,
Nicole M. Staben,
Jaime M. Lee,
Robert J. Youmans,
California State University, Northridge

Full manuscript: http://www.kon.org/urc/v9/damon.html

Abstract Some psychologists believe that, in addition to any independent variable being tested, the characteristics of the experimenter who is conducting the study can influence how participants will perform during experiments, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as experimenter bias. Participants in this experiment consisted of 67 California State University, Northridge students. In this double-blind procedure, participants were randomly assigned to follow directions from either a casually or professionally-dressed experimenter. The authors predicted that participants in the professionally dressed condition would follow directions more accurately, but results indicated that participants who received directions from a casual experimenter were more compliant. It may be that students follow directions more accurately when those directions are given by someone who is dressed more similar to themselves.

Introduction A business-like appearance is often thought to be a prerequisite to success in many societies, especially for those people who work in professional careers (Peluchette & Karl, 2006). Employees may believe that dressing professionally indicates to coworkers that they are motivated, skilled, hardworking, and serious about their workplace responsibilities (Peluchette & Karl, 2006). Dress has also been shown to influence hiring decisions during job interviews (Forsyth, Drake, & Cox, 1985). Just as many businesses prefer professionally dressed employees, many social scientists prefer that their research assistants dress professionally, and some have even suggested that attire be used as a selection criterion when recruiting undergraduate research assistants (Lechango, Love, & Carr, 2009). Given that researchers may feel pressure to dress in a predetermined way when interacting with participants in a research environment, it is important to better understand how dress may influence behavior in controlled laboratory settings where researchers work hard to minimize confounding variables. In this study, we examined how manipulating the professional attire of a researcher in a psychology experiment influenced the accuracy by which participants would follow directions. 

Read the full manuscript: http://www.kon.org/urc/v9/damon.html