Why you shouldn’t wear a wool sweater while asking for a raise

A wool sweater to an important meeting might not be your best bet.

If you're asking for raise, you'll not only want to look your best — you'll also want to feel your best.

Research by psychologists at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University suggests that touch influences how we process social interactions and situations.

Feeling a rough or uncomfortable texture, like that of a wool sweater, increases the chances that a person will view a social situation as difficult or awkward, according to a report published in Science Magazine.

In one of six experiments, the researchers had one group of people work in a rough textured puzzle before hearing a story about a social interaction. Another group worked on a smooth textured puzzle. Those who worked on the rough puzzle were more likely to describe the interaction in the story as harsh and uncoordinated.

The research also examined other touch-related cues, like holding a heavy or a light clipboard. People holding a person's resume on a heavy clipboard were more likely to perceive that applicant as qualified.

"In six experiments, holding heavy or light clipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hard or soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisions formed about unrelated people and situations," the researchers write.

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"Basic tactile sensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitive processing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways," they report.

By the same logic, the sensory input of your rough sweater could influence the way you see your boss. You could perceive your boss to be more harsh or rough than he or she actually is.

You might, then, want to reconsider wearing a rough material, like a wool sweater, when trying to negotiate your salary. Asking for a raise can be uncomfortable enough; you probably don't want to make matters more difficult for yourself by wearing anything that chafes.

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