What You Can Learn About Your Boss From Her Shoes

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You may not know your boss's salary, or even his age. You might not be sure how she's going to vote in the next election, and you probably don't know whether he has difficulties forming intimate relationships.

But apparently you can find out everything you need to know about bosses' personalities, if you look down, at their shoes.

New research from psychologists at the University of Kansas found that footwear is an amazingly good indicator of who you are: your gender, age, income, political inclination, agreeableness, and whether or not you feel loved.

In a study to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Research in Personality, the four researchers had 208 volunteers bring in their most commonly worn shoes.

The sneakers and slippers and loafers were all photographed in turn, and the volunteers filled out a personality questionnaire. Sixty-three students then looked at the photos, and had to guess various things about the owners.

Turns out, people can predict very accurately a person's gender, age, and income from his or her shoe. Of course there may be people out there who don mint condition Christian Louboutins, but are actually poverty-stricken Cheez Whiz-binging hoarders, but those people are pretty rare. The shoe may not make the man, but the man picks shoes that make who he is pretty obvious.

Even more personal qualities, the kind that you might not want to project to the world, seep out of your soles.

  • Shoes that were pointy, looked pricey, or were flashily branded were associated, pretty accurately, with less agreeable people.
  • Dull shoes in bad condition, the participants said, were worn by people who don't feel loved and are afraid of being abandoned. And they were pretty on the mark.

Shoes Don't Tell The Whole Story

Some personality factors couldn't be inferred accurately, however, to the surprise of the researchers. "We thought extraversion would be really easy to figure out from shoes," Omri Gillath, the study's lead author, told AOL Jobs. "Like if they're outgoing and happy and jumpy and cheery." But the person with the neon Nikes wasn't necessarily an open, social person.

And immaculate shoes didn't mean the person was particularly conscientious. That could be because people try to deceive others in certain ways with their footwear style.

"If you go to a job interview, you want to make the right impression. So you'll pick the shoes and clothes to tell a different story from what you really are," explains Gillath.

What To Wear To The Interview?

It was already known that people can infer a lot about a person's personality from his or her clothing and even body type. A 2007 study, for example, found that people could predict others' sexual orientation pretty accurately from their body shape and gait. According a 2009 study, if you're presented with a full-body photo of a person, you can nail down his or her major personality traits.

But in this study, there wasn't a human in the pictures at all. It was just a chunk of rubber or leather or canvas, and yet it was a pretty intimate snapshot of the person's soul.

So what are Gillath's favorite pair of shoes? "I won't answer that," he said. "I can't reveal my personality."




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