Diminishing Returns on Change
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According to a study by researchers at University of Kansas, people could judge a stranger almost exactly by looking at their shoes. A person's age, gender, income, political affiliation, emotional and other important characters were among the personality traits that could be judged by just his/her shoes.
Omri Gillath, lead researcher of the study, said that the style, cost, color, and condition of the shoes were the determinants of the owner's nature. Participants were able to rightly tell about 90% of the owner's characteristics.
For the study, 63 students were given pictures of the most frequently worn shoes of 208 volunteers for the study. The volunteers had filled up a questionnaire consisting questions about their personal traits, choices, lifestyle, etc.
The 63 students then observed the pictures of the shoes of the volunteers and were asked to guess the age, gender, social status, emotional stability, openness, etc. Their answers were matched with the questionnaires filled by the volunteers.
The observers were found to guess the characteristics of the volunteers correctly in almost all categories, and hence the researchers concluded that a lot can be told about a person from the shoes they wear, even if they intend it or not.
Some of the general observation results were
- Expensive shoes belonged to high earners,
- Flashy and colorful footwear belonged to extroverts
- Shoes that were not new but appeared to be spotless belonged to conscientious types
- Practical and functional shoes generally belonged to agreeable people.
- Ankle boots fitted with more aggressive personalities
- Uncomfortable looking shoes were worn by calm personalities.
The report further stated that people who were most worried about their relationships, or people with "attachment anxiety" had well-kept shoes. This could be possibly because they are too concerned about what others think of them.
Also, liberal thinkers wore shabbier and less expensive shoes.
"Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers," the authors wrote. "Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear."
"Shoes have great variety of styles, brands, looks, and functions. Because of this variety, shoes can carry individual difference information, but do they? We suggest that the answer is yes," they concluded.
The study was published online in the August 2012 edition of the Journal of Research in Personality.
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