A Weird Connection Between (Im)Modesty & DivorceBy: hawkgrrrl
I know the rest of you were as shocked as I was at the demise of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s long standing union. Shocked that it didn’t happen ten years earlier! I was recently reading an article in the NYT about a scientific prediction for celebrity breakups. Here are some of the factors that correlate with celebrity divorces and factor into their prediction model:
- Age at time of marriage. The younger they are (based on the spouses’ combined age), the more often they break up. This doesn’t necessarily imply causation as it’s possible that celebrities who are prone to divorce are also prone to marrying young (vs. the other way around).
- Marital history. Caveat emptor all who marry Liz Taylor! Even you, Richard Burton.
- Length of courtship. The shorter the courtship or more “whirlwind” the romance, the more likely the couple would eventually split. Seems like a no-brainer, and my guess is that they aren’t leaping into marriage to avoid breaking the law of chastity like some people I know.
- Relative fame of husband and wife. This one was tricky as celebrity careers are often in ascent or descent. Apparently, the amount of fame was less of a predictor than the quality of the fame. As a result, this measure was replaced with:
- NYT/Tabloid ratio. The statisticians normalized the news coverage (or “fame”) by comparing the ratio of “legitimate” news coverage (New York Times) to “sensationalistic” news coverage (tabloids). Since tabloids are more gossip-oriented, lots of coverage from those sources correlates with salacious rumors, drug use, infidelity, rehab, public arguing, drunken racist rants, forgetting to wear underwear to the Oscars, hitting bellboys with a telephone, or visible cellulite at the beach. Only the drivel predicted divorce.
- Sex symbol factor. This was determined by googling the wife’s name and looking at the first five images returned and counting how many were scantily clad or naked. Apparently, this is scientific research. The less clothing, the higher the risk of divorce. Interestingly, this was not similarly true for husbands. At least one expert theorized that this was because women initiate 70% of breakups, so their behaviour is more predictive. Also, female celebrities who choose to portray themselves as sex symbols have a higher rate of narcissism, and narcissists (of both sexes) feel entitled to have sex with anyone they choose (Newt Gingrich, cough, cough). One psychologist cited that narcissistic female celebrities were often caught between feelings of grandiosity and feelings of worthlessness, creating a situation in which they required sexual attention to maintain self esteem. Easy for him to say.
So, is modesty valuable because its inverse correlates with female narcissism and infidelity? Even if it correlates, is there any sort of causation that could be reverse engineered? Can infidelity-prone women stay on the straight and narrow if they simply cover up? Or will that just give them one more article of clothing to remove in the process?
An interesting study was just published on the effect clothing has, not on people around us, but on the wearer’s own mental state. The effect was called enclothed cognition. The study involved participants doing detail-oriented work. To evaluate the impact of clothing, some did the work in their regular clothes while others were told to don a lab coat. Those in lab coats made half as many errors as their plain clothes counterparts. The study further evaluated the effect of seeing a lab coat, then performing the work in one’s own regular clothes (no improvement in results). Another group was instructed to wear the lab coat, but it was referred to as a painter’s coat (there was also no benefit from this). The only benefit occurred when the person identified the coat as a lab coat (symbolic of meticulous research techniques) and when the person then wore the symbolic clothing; like Superman taking off his glasses and putting on a red cape, this transformed the test subjects into more careful researchers.
Which brings us back to modesty. The research on enclothed cognition suggests that modest clothing would only curb immoral behaviour if the wearer believed the modest clothing to be symbolic of moral behaviour. Ergo, when the person wears it, she feels magically more moral. (Magic underwear, anyone?) Does this mean that the slogan “modest is hottest” reduces or eliminates the symbolic benefit (the cognition) of modest clothing? Does enclothed cognition explain how garments are a protection to the wearer?