Q: What does it say about me that I choose to wear a wristwatch? Does wearing a wristwatch change how I behave?
A: Yes, there’s evidence to suggest that certain personality traits are associated with watch-wearing, and wearing a watch is associated with a certain important behavior: arriving early to appointments.
Previous research suggests that various clothing and accessory decisions change how people are perceived. But does this actually translate to behaviors?
- In other words, do our fashion choices really say something about how we behave, or is this just a stereotype or an illusion?
This question was asked by two British researchers at universities in the UK. The results were published in the journal PeerJ in 2015.
They chose to examine this question by looking at a certain fashion accessory that is often connected to a personality trait: wristwatches and conscientiousness.
- Conscientiousness is a psychological personality trait defined as being driven, hard-working, and reliable.
First, the researchers did a quick preliminary study that examined connections between wristwatch wearing and personality traits.
They recruited 112 participants at the 2011 British Science Festival to fill out a personality survey with a few extra questions about wearing a wristwatch.
- They were asked whether they wore a wristwatch most of the time for at least the past year.
As expected, wrist-watching was associated with significantly higher levels of conscientiousness as well as emotional stability.
However, this was a smaller sample from a relatively homogenous group (scientists at a festival). The real test comes with a larger, more diverse group. So they replicated the results for Experiment 2.
In this experiment, the researchers found a larger, more diverse sample of people (638 participants from an online survey).
They were also given a personality test, but were asked questions about wearing a wristwatch as well as their work habits.
In this experiment, some more interesting data was collected.
97.48% of participants said they owned a mobile phone, but this didn’t seem to make a difference in watch ownership (having a phone didn’t keep people from wearing a watch, and vice versa).
Men and women were equally likely to wear a wristwatch regularly.
There was no difference in wristwatch-wearing between those who worked traditional hours or shift-based hours (so we can’t say that shift workers are more likely to wear a watch).
Once again, wristwatch-wearing was significantly associated with conscientiousness.
- Wristwatch-wearers were slightly lower on extraversion and openness to experience, but this effect wasn’t very strong.
All this even more strongly confirms that people who are conscientious really are more likely to wear a watch.
Finally, how does this effect translate to real life? The researchers went even further and sought to examine whether wristwatch-wearing actually had an effect on behavior.
- In this case, whether wristwatch-wearers were more likely to arrive early or on time to an appointment, compared to those who don’t wear watches.
This experiment was cleverly attached to another study.
The experimenters were already running a different study in which participants had to arrive to the lab at a certain time.
All the participants had arrived to the lab previously, so they knew the location of the lab well enough to get there on time.
All the researchers did was note when the participants got to the lab (whether they were early, on time, or late), and whether they were wearing a wristwatch.
Wouldn’t you know it, the researchers did a simple comparison of watch-wearers and non-watch-wearers and discovered that those who wore a watch arrived significantly earlier than the non-watch-wearers.
This study demonstrated pretty clearly that the perception that wristwatch-wearing is associated with conscientiousness (hard-working, being driven, punctuality, etc.) is not a stereotype.
Not only was wristwatch-wearing associated with conscientious personality traits, it was also tied to observable behaviors.
It seems like wristwatch-wearers know something that everyone else might not. If you don’t wear a watch, consider the possible benefits!
Ellis, D. A., & Jenkins, R. (2015). Watch-wearing as a marker of conscientiousness. PeerJ, 3:e1210. Link: https://peerj.com/articles/1210/