affects of temperature

The surprising ways we’re affected by temperature

The weather, and the temperature in particular, has been a real topic of conversation over the last few months.

The recent heatwave that seemed to go on forever was being discussed everywhere you went, and all over social media.  And now we’re not even in September and people are starting to talk about how chilly it’s getting and debating whether or not they should put the heating on.

The perfect temperature at home is definitely a subject for debate, but First Utility are looking to end the discussion with their guide to the ideal room temperatures throughout our homes.  When it comes to our general well-being at home then it seems that a temperature of around 21 degrees is best.

It’s not just about our comfort though, feeling hot or cold can have all sorts of interesting effects on us.

the surprising ways we're affected by temperature

Temperature influences our creativity

Research has found that different types of creativity can be encouraged depending on whether we feel hot or cold.

People in one particular study were made to feel warm in a variety of ways. They were given a hot cup of tea to drink, or were placed in a warm room for the study. Under these circumstances they were better at creative drawing and coming up with ideas for presents for other people, amongst other things.

When they were made to feel cold instead, however, they were better at recognising metaphors and thinking of abstract gift ideas.

In this case it seems that being warm helps people with warm relational creativity. So, they might feel psychologically closer to other people and more generous towards them. While being cold seems to produce more distant and cold processing, as they feel colder and more distanced from other people.


It changes how we view people

And how much we cooperate with them.

I’ve written before about how holding a warm drink can change the way we view other people.  We’re more likely to see them as warm and friendly while we have a nice warm cup of tea in our hands.

Research has shown that it goes further than this though.

A study carried out in 2013 called ‘the iterated prisoner’s dilemma‘ found that temperature can also affect how much trust we put in another person and how willing we are to cooperate with them.

In the study participants were put into pairs and put in a pretend jail. They were told that the authorities didn’t have enough evidence to convict either of them but that they each needed to testify against the other.

Some of the participants were given hand warmers to hold during the experiment and others were given ice packs.  The study found that the people with the hand warmers were twice as likely to cooperate with their cell mate and refuse to testify against them.

The researchers believe that it’s possible that the physical feeling of warmth increased the warmth the participants felt towards each other and increased their interpersonal trust of one another.

temperature changes how we view people


It influences the way women dress

We all know that the weather affects the way we dress.

In summer we wear light clothes. Dresses and shorts to try and keep cool. Whereas in winter we layer up in warm and cosy jumpers and cardies.

Researchers have found something quite interesting though, that is specific to women.

One particular study found that women were more likely to wear clothes in shades of red and pink on days when they’re ovulating.  The theory put forward by the researchers is that this is down to a subconscious idea of these colours making us more attractive to potential partners.  Jessica Tracy, lead author of the study, wrote that “the basic idea is that read and pink colours are sort of a sexual signal”.

What’s really interesting though is that this preference for red and pink clothing during ovulation only appeared in the colder winter months.

Tracy says “maybe what’s going on here is that in the summer when it’s warmer, women have more ways of dressing seductively”.  In the winter though it’s normally too cold for things like shorter skirts and low-cut tops, so we choose colour instead.  She also noted that it’s pretty controversial to suggest this idea that women behave differently when they’re ovulating but all sorts of other studies have shown that it does happen in various ways.


When it comes to finding the ideal temperature for our homes it might be worth thinking beyond our physical comfort.

With the knowledge of how the temperature affects us we can potentially create the environment that we want.  So we can make our home a little warmer to encourage our children to cooperate with each other more, or lower the temperature if we need to work on problem solving or a task that needs a bit of critical thinking.


Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

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