In the United States, Halloween is a popular time for Americans (young and old) to wear costumes, even in a professional setting. Clothes can serve as a signal, but also generate externalities. In discussing signaling, it’s important to identify visible markers that may underscore some “hidden” trait. Often, the clothes we wear in professional settings provides a signal of who we may be trying to portray. The court stenographer, dressed as a spider, may not have chosen the best outfit for this day in course. Had she worn this outfit during her interview, she may not have gotten the job despite her qualifications.
A secondary outcome of her decision to dress as a spider is that it imposes external costs on Mitchel in the courtroom. While trying to defend his case, the jurors are distracted by the stenographer’s appearance. The decision to dress up for Halloween was a private decision and has private costs associated with the costume, but it has imposes additional costs on Mitchell as well. These social costs likely outweigh her private benefits, resulting in a net loss to society.
See more: externalities, interviewing, labor market, negative externalities, private benefits, signaling, social costs