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Surprisingly minimal appearance cues lead perceivers to accurately judge others’ personality, status, or politics. We investigated people’s precision in judging characteristics of an unknown person, based solely on the shoes he or she wears most often. Participants provided photographs of their shoes, and during a separate session completed self-report measures. Coders rated the shoes on various dimensions, and these ratings were found to correlate with the owners’ personal characteristics. A new group of participants accurately judged the age, gender, income, and attachment anxiety of shoe owners based solely on the pictures. Shoes can indeed be used to evaluate others, at least in some domains.
Press release: Study: Shoes Reveal Personality
A study conducted by the University of Kansas found that people can judge a stranger's personality by looking at the person's shoes with more than 90 percent of accuracy.
A total of 63 university students participated in the study and they were asked to look at pictures showing 208 different pairs of shoes that were most commonly worn by the other volunteer group. The group also filled out a personality questionnaire to indicate their characteristics.
Lead researcher Omri Gillath said the judgments were based on the style, cost, color and condition of someone's shoes. 'Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,' he wrote in the journal.
Interesting outcomes of the study:
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.
As a result, the number of detailed personality traits could be detected including a person's general age, their gender, income, political affiliation and emotional stability.
“Shoes serve a practical purpose and also serve as non-verbal cues with symbolic messages,” the researchers told the Journal of Research in Personality. “Because of their variety, do shoes carry individual difference information? We suggest: Yes.”