Perceived Competence as a Function of Attire in a Business Context




Bell, Michael A.

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Drawing from “person perception” literature, the present study evaluated how 224 college students judged two fictional male job applicants’ levels of professional competence based on the applicants’ attire. Each college student wasa randomly assigned a hiring manager role in the finance, sales, or research and developments branch of a company. One applicant wore “formal” attire, and one applicant wore “informal” attire. From the experimental survey it was concluded that participants rated formally dressed applicants as more “competent” (M = 3.962, SD = .57) than informally dressed ones (M = 2.014, SD = .70), F (2, 181) = 746.73, p < .001, and hired formal applicants significantly more than informal ones (97% vs. 14% hiring rate), regardless of the participant’s assigned business role. The implications and application of these findings are addressed.



professional work attire, business attire, workplace roles, Honors College


Bell, M. A. (2012). Perceived competence as a function of attire in a business context (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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