Strangers can tell a lot about you, just by checking out your footwear — at least according to researchers from the University of Kansas and Wellesley College.
In a study of college students, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, the authors found that people could correctly guess a stranger’s age, gender and income by looking at their shoes. That’s no real surprise, considering that the style of a shoe or its designer label can be immediately revealing.
But to their surprise, the researchers also found that people could accurately assess another person’s level of attachment anxiety — whether you tend to be clingy and insecure in your close relationships, or more laid-back and relaxed — based on their choice of shoes.
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For the study, researchers asked 63 University of Kansas students to look at photos submitted by 208 other students of the shoes they wore most often. The students who volunteered the photographs completed various online personality tests. The viewers were then asked to rate the owners on personality, attachment style, whether they were extroverted or introverted, politically liberal or conservative, and demographic measures like age, gender, and family income.
After viewing the variety of boots, flip-flops, lace-ups, loafers, sandals and sneakers worn by fellow students — admittedly, a limited and largely homogenous sample — the study participants were most successful at guessing the wearers’ age, sex and income. After that, they could most accurately guess attachment style: people with anxious attachment styles were more likely to wear new-looking or well-kept shoes, perhaps because they worry about appearances and what other people think of them, the authors suggest.
Other associations between shoe style and personality, reports Medical Daily:
Practical and functional shoes generally belong to agreeable people, ankle boots fit with more aggressive personalities and uncomfortable looking shoes were worn by calm personalities.
However, strangers couldn’t glean much of this information just by looking at footwear. For instance, they couldn’t predict others’ extroversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience or political leanings, reports the New York Daily News.
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Bottom line: the shoes you choose communicate at least something about your personality, but then you didn’t need a study to tell you that — the same goes for your clothes and most other fashion choices you make. “Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,” the authors write. “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.”