The last weekend of October is one of my favorite times of year, and I got to spend it in Vegas where the costumes are especially extravagant.
But why is Halloween so much fun?
Power of Masks
Since prehistory, mankind has made use of masks in one form or another. It's an external method of accessing a different internal state where the wearer gets to try on different personalities & behaviors.
The character of the mask suggests its own character that is then interpreted and expressed by the wearer. It's pure make-believe at its finest.
But what if the effects aren't imaginary?
Power of Costume
A couple years ago a pair of researchers (Hajo Adam & Adam Galinsky) looked into what kind of effects costumes have on a person's thought processes. The results were surprising.
In the experiment, they had half the participants wear a white lab coat to "protect their clothes from dust" and the other half wore no lab coat.
All were tested for attention, ability to focus, performance of timed tasks, etc.
Those who were wearing the lab coat performed better than those who didn't, even though the lab coat wasn't characterized that way.
It suggests that the participants were bringing their own beliefs and associations about the piece of clothing, and it had a subconscious (but measurable) effect on their mental faculties.
This effect is called "enclothed cognition." It's the effect clothes and costumes have on our psychology based on wearing it, and also what you believe about those who wear those kinds of clothes.
Doctors are smart, and they wear white coats. I'm wearing a white coat, so I'm smart.
And then you are smarter.
Clothes Make The Man
You're familiar with the saying, but may not fully recognize how deeply the effects can reach.
This is why Halloween is so much fun for people. Wearing a costume or mask allows you to truly feel like you're someone else. You get to access personality traits you don't usually identify with, and nobody judges you because they're all doing exactly the same thing.
It's like a social purge of your current operating personality.
If you think about it, you should realize that what you think is your "true" identify is still just a creation that's designed to get the reactions you want from other people.
If you're not happy with who you "really are" maybe there's an opportunity for you to try on a new costume for awhile. Before you know it, you'll be that new person.
Then it's Halloween all year round!