What Does Your Halloween Costume Say About You?
By SCOTT SMITH, Correspondent
Today is Halloween and all of the young ghosts and goblins will be out trick-or-treating this
evening. Halloween is a magical time for children to dress up and pretend to be their
favorite superhero, book or movie character. It also gives us adult mortals a chance to enjoy
the fun and whimsical side of scary subjects like life, death, grisly ghouls and the
supernatural. One of the big considerations of Halloween is choosing what type of costume you
are going to wear. Little do people know that the choice you make may reveal more about your
personality than you realize.
Halloween has always been an enjoyable event that has been growing steadily in popularity for
many years. It has gone from somewhat of an obscure, quirky, second-tier children's
celebration to a front and center showpiece that people of all ages celebrate. I can remember
as a child, it seemed like Halloween preparations took place pretty much on that very day. I
recall carving a pumpkin for a porch jack-o-lantern just before leaving for
trick-or-treating. Now, there may be a good month or more of planning, preparation and
celebrating. As a reflection of its rising popularity, Halloween has now surpassed all other
holidays except for Christmas in terms of the amount of money spent on decorations and
Psychologically, there is something very appealing about the opportunity to laugh at scary
and mysterious things. It is fun to safely tease them, or mock them, or even become them ever
so briefly. It may help us feel like we have some control over concepts or even fears that
are usually beyond our normal understanding and experience. There may be no other time but
Halloween where you can you pretend to be the grim reaper harvesting souls or a fairy
princess granting people their wishes!
Often in contemplating what type of costume a person may want to wear, people are oblivious
to the implications their choice has about their own personality. Several recent
psychological studies have demonstrated that the category of costume you find appealing can
say a lot about you.
Most psychological studies suggest that people generally tend to choose costumes that reflect
who they "aren't" normally in day to day life. In other words, people generally choose
costumes that help to explore a different or alternative side of their personality. So the
type of costume you wear can indicate an area or aspect of your own personality or life that
you feel is neglected or less developed. In other words, the "opposite" principle is in play,
as many people are acting out or pretending to be something that has qualities and behaviors
that are not normally found in their regular life.
Another aspect of costume selection is that certain personality types are drawn to certain
categories of costumes. For example, people who choose celebrities for their costumes are
often trying to appear "hip" and up-to-date by expressing their knowledge of pop culture,
trends and current events. They are also likely to choose a celebrity that represents
qualities that they wish they had such as intelligence, wealth, bravery or attractiveness. In
these cases, the celebrity choice reflects deeply held desires about how the individual
wishes they were but may feel in real life that they are not.
People that prefer scary characters for their costumes such as monsters, zombies and vampires
are likely to be demonstrating their fascination and emotional conflict with horror, violence
and death. Choosing a frightening costume may represent their fear of those concepts and
their sense of fascination with a repressed or "scary" aspect of their own personality.
Wearing a scary costume may demonstrate a desire to control or become more familiar with
something that seems ominous and threatening to them otherwise.
On the other hand, people that choose lighter costumes of childhood innocence like a fairy
princess are often expressing a desire to go back to that stage of life where things seemed
much simpler and more innocent. Fairy princesses don't have to deal with heavy issues related
to intimacy and sustaining relationships over time. Picking a cartoon character suggests the
desire to be whimsical and light in order to get away from responsibilities and burdens of
regular life. The desire to return to fantasy aspects of childhood suggests some
disillusionment with the adult world and a lack of emotional fulfillment in current
When people choose an animal costume it is because they identify heavily with or admire some
stereotypic quality or personality trait of that animal. For example, dogs are thought to be
loyal while lions are strong leaders, and sharks are silently aggressive. The "opposite" rule
does not apply here as people tend to pick animals that they feel are most like them or that
has traits that they admire and wish to emulate.
People who choose evil villains for their persona are definitely making a statement. Those
who want to portray themselves as a notorious person like a serial killer are attempting to
express their own "dark side" without feeling guilty or remorseful. It may also mean that the
individual has strong feelings of doubt and insecurity and the aggressive nature of the
villain helps to protect them. In much the same way, choosing a superhero suggests admiration
for that character and a desire to be empowered, admired and more successful.
There is another interesting psychological aspect to Halloween costumes that research has
uncovered. When people dress up in costumes that hide their individual identity a
psychological phenomenon known as de-individuation occurs. Essentially, de-individuation
refers to feelings of anonymity or a belief that one will not be held accountable for what
they do. This can happen in other situations too, such as in large crowds and it may be the
basis of some destructive social phenomenon such as looting and rioting. De-individuation is
associated with more rambunctious if not antisocial behavior. In a study of children's
behavior while dressed in a costume and anonymous, 80 percent of children "stole" extra candy
when given the opportunity, whereas only seven percent of children stole when they were known
This finding is troubling in many ways, but suggests some degree of caution is warranted
tonight if you are going out. You may also want to think about what your costume may be
saying about you before you leave the house. Also, to be on the safe side try and avoid
hitching a ride with anyone who is dressed as a serial killing shark! Happy Halloween!