A new survey published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology reveals that most patients prefer their dermatologists to wear professional attire, specifically a white lab coat.

The researchers recruited the help of 255 patients who visited the University at Miami’s dermatology department. Before the patients saw their doctor, they were asked to view one of four picture sets at random that depicted either a white man, white woman, black man, or black woman. Each showed the same person dressed in four different ways: wearing a business suit, with a tie in the men’s case; a lab coat; surgical scrubs; and a casual Friday look. They then asked the participants which fictional dermatologist they’d want to treat them. In total, 73 percent preferred the one decked out in a lab coat, while a mere 2 percent opted for the casual Joe or Jane.

“Across wound care, surgical, and medical dermatology clinics, respondents largely preferred professional attire,” the authors wrote.

Patients shown a picture set of these fictional dermatologists overwhelmingly preferred the one in a lab coat. Fox et al, JAMA Dermatology

Though this lab coat preference held steady in most cases, there were subtle differences of opinion depending on who took the survey, which picture set they saw, and which treatment scenario they were asked about.

In particular, unemployed and nonwhite patients were less likely to prefer professional attire, while the opposite was true of participants who saw the picture sets of black male and female dermatologists. Forty-nine percent of people who were asked which dermatologist they’d prefer during an emergency situation picked the one in scrubs and 47 percent picked the lab-coated one. After controlling for race, patients visiting the surgery clinic in particular were more likely to prefer scrubs, but the lab coat was the top choice overall.

“This suggests in surgical and emergency dermatologic settings, patients prefer either professional or surgical attire,” the authors wrote. “Perhaps patients associate physicians wearing scrubs with emergency situations based on their own observations in emergency departments or what they have seen on television.”

Amazing as it might seem, there’s been more than one study looking at how a doctor’s clothing choices might affect patients. The current study’s findings largely line up with these previous efforts, though the variations indicate that other factors like geography and cultural background may also play a role in shaping opinion, the authors said.

Interestingly enough, the participants often went out of their way to let the survey takers know that they would never judge their dermatologist by what they were wearing, only by their actual knowledge and skill. While the authors were polite enough to consider that their volunteers were being earnest, they noted their results said otherwise. “We found that respondents consistently believed that the physician wearing professional attire would be more knowledgeable and competent that [sic] the physician wearing the other types of attire, and would have superior diagnostic and treatment abilities.”

In other words, it seems that physical first impressions are just as important in medicine as they are in dating.

Source: Fox J, Prado G, Baquerizo Nole K, et al. Patient Preference in Dermatologist Attire in the Medical, Surgical, and Wound Care Settings. JAMA Dermatology. 2016.