Revealing Shoes

We all know the saying ‘you are what you eat’, according to a new study it appears as though many people think that you are actually…what you wear. In a recently released study, University of Kansas and Wellesley College psychologists suggest that we make sweeping judgements about strangers by merely gazing at their shoes.

The study, which will be published in August 2012 edition of the Journal of Research in Personality, involved 208 undergraduates submitting photos of the shoes they wear most often and then completing several online personality tests. The photos were then examined by 63 of their fellow students between the ages 18 and 55 who were asked to guess the gender, age, social status and different personality traits of the owner such as whether the owner was an introvert or extrovert, politically liberal or conservative, the degree of their emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.

Researchers found that participants were most successful at guessing the wearers’ age, sex and income. After that, they could most accurately guess attachment style surmising that people with “attachment anxiety” or people that were most worried about their relationships were more likely to wear well-kept shoes, perhaps because they are concerned about appearances and worry so much about what other people think of them, the authors suggest. Those with attachment anxiety also were pegged as being more likely to wear shoes in a neutral colour whereas those who wore more colourful shoes had more confidence in their relationships.

Not all assumptions by the students were correct, however. “People guessed that liberals wore less attractive shoes, in worse repair, and less stylish,” said study co-author Angela Bahns, an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley. “But when we looked at the true personality data it wasn’t the case.”

The study also found that it is accurately perceived that practical and functional shoes generally belong to agreeable people while ankle boots are most often worn by those with more aggressive personalities. Surprisingly, to me at least, uncomfortable looking shoes are most often worn by those with calm personalities.

“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.”

Have you paid attention to your shoes lately? What do your favourite pair say about you?

By Kim England

Jimmy Choo Anouk patent leather pumps
Havaianas flip flops