The Social Thermometer

We often describe our social relationships in temperature metaphors, like “cold shoulder” or “warm memories” or even “she’s hot!” This is no coincidence. An experiment last year from the University of Toronto showed that thinking about an incident where the subject felt socially excluded led them to estimate the room’s temperature to be lower than those subjects who recalled a better experience. Three more experiments from Hans IJzerman and Gün R. Semin of Utrecht University show the converse to be true as well: warm or cold temperatures affect how people perceive relationships. In the first experiment, subjects rated a relationship on the social proximity, or overlap, between the subject and a person they were asked to think about.

The participants had been divided into two groups at the beginning of the experiment. Those in the warm condition had been given a warm drink to hold when they entered the room, while those in the cold condition had been given a cold one. It was found that the perceived degree of overlap with the known other was significantly greater for those participants handed a warm drink at the start of the experiment than those handed a cold one. Similarly, another recent study found that those who hold a hot cup of coffee judged others to be more generous and caring than those who held a cup of iced coffee.

Get yourself a nice hot cup and read about the other two experiments at Neurophilosophy. Link

(image credit: Flickr user bitzcelt)

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