"I can't move in this": Clothing influences movement efficiency


Seminal research has shown that wearing revealing clothing may increase women's body-related self-conscious emotions, which consumes cognitive resources and in turn diminishes mental performance (Fredrickson et al., 1998, J Pers Soc Psychol). Here, we manipulated women's clothing to determine whether increased body-related awareness also impacts motor performance. Women were randomly assigned to wear a tight vs. loose black athletic outfit (n = 40/group). Participants executed rapid aiming movements to a target presented with an overlapping penalty circle. Participants gained points when the target was contacted and lost points when the penalty circle was contacted. Task success required selecting an "optimal" endpoint based on participants' own movement variability and the rewards/penalties associated with the regions of the aiming environment. The groups did not differ in endpoint selection and movement variability (ps > .57), indicating that both groups accomplished the movement task goals. However, the tight-clothing group performed with significantly greater movement time variability (p = .001) and only the loose-clothing group significantly decreased their movement time across blocks of trials (p = 0.028). Thus, the loose-clothing group demonstrated more efficient action execution. These findings suggest that the clothing worn can impact motor performance – a result consistent with research demonstrating that a focus on the body hinders the performance of skilled motor behaviour. These findings may have implications for best practices in physical activity contexts.

Acknowledgments: SSHRC