Your Halloween costume may say a lot about you, psychologists say

Families and students meander through the aisles of a local costume shop. Psychologists say costume choice may be impacted by personality and social standards. They also may differ based on age. Photo credit: Timothy Hong

By Kayla Farr | Reporter

Witches or cats, mummies or ghosts, deer or doctors. There are so many Halloween costumes out there, so many characters that one can be on Halloween.

What a person dresses up as says a lot about them, said Dr. Wade Rowatt, a professor of psychology.

“Kids, teens and adults likely choose Halloween costumes for different developmentally appropriate reasons,” Rowatt said. “Kids dress up for fun like their favorite animals and characters. College students and adults, on the other hand, can get into characters that allow them to try on different identities they may not be able to express on a daily basis.”

Dr. Sara Dolan, neuroscience graduate program director, said there is more than one reason why people dress up as certain characters.

“I think there’s probably two reasons that may be interrelated,” Dolan said. “I think one reason is that people want to feel a part of a crowd; so if their friends are dressing up, they want to dress up. I also think that the choices people make in their costumes might reflect either what they think is popular, or they might be trying to communicate something psychologically.”

According to an article by Psychology Today, people try to dress up like people they are not. Someone who is a waitress isn’t likely to dress up as a waitress for Halloween.

Dolan said people might be trying to communicate a side of their personality that they don’t show often or at all.

“They might be trying to show a part of their personality that they are particularly proud of,” Dolan said. “For example, men that dress up in superhero costumes. They may either want to communicate to people that they are proud of their masculinity or they may be trying to tell people that they wish they were more like this. So they may feel that they are not as much of a savior or hero as they want to be, so this is their chance.”

Dolan said people are more likely to follow the trends when they are younger and less so as they get older.

“I think if people’s friends are dressing up, they want to dress up to be a part of what their friends are doing,” Dolan said. “I think especially younger people are more likely to choose costumes that are looked upon well by their friends. People are trying to display parts of themselves that they probably don’t otherwise display at other points in the year. This is their chance to act out that role and not get in trouble with their friends for it.”