Research has shown that polite language increases abstract thinking. Polite language is more formal and is used in contexts when people are more socially distant and less familiar with others.
Separate research has shown that formal clothing is often worn to follow norms, but also serves to obtain respect, signaling professionalism and maintenance of social distance. Indeed, wearing formal clothing is associated with perceptions of more professionalism but also less approachability. Casual clothing is related to intimacy and familiarity. For example, people who wear formal clothes describe themselves as more competent and rational, whereas people who wear casual clothes describe themselves as more friendly and laid-back.
Researchers at Columbia University wanted to see if these two ideas could be studied in combination to see if wearing formal clothing increases abstract thinking.
The results suggested that clothing formality is associated with abstract processing, with greater formality associated with enhanced abstract processing.
If you are wondering what is meant by abstract processing, abstract processing consists of superordinate, holistic, and broad mental representations. Abstract processing facilitates the pursuit of long-term goals over short-term gains.
So it seems that if you want to focus more on long-term goals, the solution is clear; dress well and speak politely. I think I remember getting that advice when I was 10 years old.
If only I had listened…
(photo from the Pinterest board My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter)