How to be an exam superhero

Crazy as it sounds, psychologists have found that wearing a Superman t-shirt or a white coat can improve exam performance.  Professor Karen Pine, author of ‘Mind What You Wear’ suggests that what we wear can change the way we think and feel, a phenomenon known as ‘enclothed cognition’. If you have studied aggression, you may already be familiar with this idea through the concept of deindividuation, those changes in thinking and behaviour associated with the anonymity of uniform.

In the US, Hajo Adam and Adam Galinski, of Northwestern University, have demonstrated that a person’s performance on attention-related tasks increases when wearing a white coat. Subconsciously, the coat made participants feel more professional and more focused on the tasks because of the ‘medical’ association of the white coat. Their performance did not increase in the same way if they were told the coat was a painter’s coat, suggesting it is the symbolic association of the garment that is the mechanism for altered cognitions.

Pine’s team at the University of Hertfordshire put students through a range of mental ability tests and found that those wearing Superman t-shirts scored significantly higher than those in plain t-shirts (72 per cent versus 64 per cent).  Pine also found that when wearing a Superman t-shirt, students rated themselves as more likeable and superior to other students.

So, when you are happy that you have covered everything you need to revise for the forthcoming exams, the only thing left to do is to dig out that old superhero t-shirt to wear on the day itself (ask your dad, he’s bound to have one…)