PSYC 110L Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Sweatpants, Analysis Of Variance, Business Casual

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23 Jun 2016
Gender, Dress, and Approachability When Asked to Take a Survey
Throughout many institutions and a variety of issues, responses to surveys are vital when
it comes to gaining consumer and citizen feedback so that organizations can improve their
function and keep up with the demands of the people over time. In this process, it is important to
understand what factors are important in getting people to answer surveys, and one way to figure
this out is to find what factors about people make them more or less approachable. Two factors
that form an impression of a surveyor to participants are gender and style of dress, and
determining if these factors have an effect on whether people find surveyors approachable and
feel comfortable giving them information about themselves in a survey.
In a study done by Sebastian and Bristow (2008), business students were asked about
their perceptions of professors based on their style of dress. They found that business students
thought that women dressed casually were more trustworthy, while formally dressed men were
seen as more credible than their casually dressed counterparts and that women in casual dress
were seen as more credible than formally dressed women. This study suggests that young adults
feel more comfortable around authority figures that are casually dressed than formally dressed,
and that style of dress affects women more than men in terms of perception. Another study done
by Strickland and Bonnet (2011) looked at how gender affected approachability of librarians at a
college library and found that patrons were more likely to approach a female librarian if given a
choice between the two genders. This suggests that if people are allowed to choose who to go to,
they are more likely to want to interact with a female than a male. This study aims to extend the
realm of approachability based on gender and style of dressed betweens peers, since the
surveyors and the participants are both students rather than a professor or librarian in order to see
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if gender and style of dress are important variables in figuring out how to give out a survey in the
most approachable manner possible.
Our hypothesis stated that when students were approached by a surveyor, they would be
more likely to respond positively if approached by a female rather than a male, and that they
would respond more positively if they were approached by someone in business casual clothing.
In this study, approachability is defined by how high the ratio of yeses and nos for taking the
surveys were per person and type of dress, and was further measured by the average comfort of
the participants, which was determined on the survey on a scale of zero to five. When a
participant declined the survey, their comfort level was determined as zero, and those who took
the survey and were the least comfortable designated a one on the survey, while those who were
completely comfortable put down a five, and two, three, and four were options in between.
“Casual dress” is defined as wearing sweatpants, a T-Shirt or a sweatshirt, and sneakers, and
“business casual” is defined as wearing a dress, skirt, or slacks and a nice shirt for females and a
collared top and slacks for males. The study was between participants with a focus on aggregate
comfort level of the participant towards the surveyor.
Eighty undergraduate students from Lafayette College, approximately 18 to 25 years old,
were recruited for participation. Gender was not recorded, but both males and females
participated. Each of the four experimenters dressed up twice to be surveyors, once in casual
clothing and once in business casual clothing, and recruited ten students per survey session each
during the lunch hour in the Farinon Student Center. The participants were not compensated for
their time. The surveyors only recruited people at the College that they did not know, so that the
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