Comprehensive coverage

With a warm smile or a cold emotion?

Where does the connection between the concept of temperature and the concept of proximity come from? Scientists conducted experiments and found the connection between degrees of heat and feelings of heat

Miriam Dishon-Berkowitz

A smile in a painting by Eduard von Grotzner (1846-1925) from Wikipedia
A smile in a painting by Eduard von Grotzner (1846-1925) from Wikipedia
Temperature and feelings of psychological closeness
Human language is saturated with metaphors, among them the concept of temperature and the concept of social closeness, which are intertwined: parents are looking for an educational figure for their child who will give him "warmth and love"; The guests say that they were greeted with "excessive warmth". We also know phrases like "the interviewer showed coolness and distance towards the interviewee"; He was not moved by the plight of the interviewee, he is really a "cold fish". Even the interviewee's former manager, who was once his best friend, showed him a "cold shoulder".

Where does this connection between the concept of temperature and the concept of proximity come from? Babies who are lovingly embraced by the caring figure simultaneously feel her feelings of love as well as a feeling of physical warmth, so that they simultaneously experience an abstract concept of "love" with a concrete physical experience of a pleasant feeling of warmth.

And indeed, recently it became clear that the cerebral cortex area known as the "island" (the insular cortex) in our brain is responsible for processing sensations of psychological warmth as well as for processing sensations of temperature. As an expression of this, people use tangible (concrete) expressions of warmth to express abstract (abstract) concepts of affection.

Iced coffee to cool the atmosphere
Based on these findings, Hans Ijzerman and Gan Semin (Ijzerman, Semin) examine in a study published in the journal Psychological Science the issue of whether a physical change in the temperature in the environment will affect social proximity to others. "Social proximity" is defined as a perceived psychological distance between a person And specifically, will raising the temperature in the room to a warm and pleasant temperature lead to more positive psychological feelings towards the other person?

33 participants participated in the first experiment. When they entered the laboratory, the experimenter asked them to hold a glass of drink for him for a short moment, while he installed something on the computer. Half of the participants were asked to hold a warm cup of coffee and half were asked to hold a cold cup of iced coffee. After that, the participants filled out a questionnaire that was used as a distraction and actually had nothing to do with the study. Finally, the participants were asked to think of a person they know well, and to rate the degree of closeness they feel towards him over a dedicated questionnaire that measures psychological closeness.

The analysis of the research findings shows that participants who held the cup of the hot drink reported greater psychological closeness than participants who held the cup of the cold drink.

The purpose of the second experiment was to examine whether results similar to those of the first experiment would be obtained both with a different manipulation of temperature and with reference to a different psychological plane: language. This examination is based on new studies in the literature, which have shown that people who feel psychologically close tend to use more tangible language, while people who feel psychologically distant tend to use more abstract language.

52 participants took part in the second experiment. When they came to the laboratory, half of the participants were put into a room where the temperature was low (between 18-15 degrees Celsius), and half of them were put into a room where the temperature was pleasant (between 24-22 degrees Celsius). After that, the participants watched a video clip, in which illustrated characters from a chess game are seen, making moves that are not related to the game of chess. Finally, the participants were asked to describe in their own words what they saw in the video clip. A neutral psychologist, who was unaware of the research hypotheses, coded the participants' answers according to accepted linguistic coding, which estimates the degree of abstraction or concreteness a person uses in his speech.

According to this coding method, a given event can be described in four possible levels of abstraction, ranging from the most tangible to the most abstract. For example, the event can be described in four possible ways: "Yossi Havitz to David" is the first and most tangible way. In this way of description, verbs are used that refer to a single and specific action (beat, shouted, walked), which has defined starting and ending points.

Hot in the room - hot in the heart?
"Yossi hurt David" is the second way of describing the action. Here, verbs are used that refer to a general group of behaviors (help, hurt, upset), with clear starting and ending points, and they refer to the action or its emotional results.

"Yossi hates David" is the third way of describing the action. This time verbs are used that refer to an ongoing cognitive or emotional state (hate, admire, appreciate) without clear starting or ending points.

Finally, "Yossi is aggressive" is the fourth and last way to describe the action. In this way, no verbs are used, but adjectives (aggressive, reliable). These adjectives refer to some feature or characteristic of the person.

Therefore, in the second study, the degree of tangibility or abstraction used by the participants to describe the video clip in which the chess figures appeared was analyzed. Finally, after describing the clip, the participants were asked to indicate their degree of closeness to the experimenter in a dedicated questionnaire for measuring psychological closeness.

From the analysis of the findings of the second experiment, it appears that participants who stayed in a warm room described the clip in more concrete terms than participants who were exposed to a lower temperature. In addition, participants who stayed at a higher temperature felt closer to the experimenter than participants who stayed at a lower temperature.

In conclusion, the two experiments show that physical conditions in the environment - i.e. differences in temperature, affected a psychological perception of the other person as well as a different use of language. The research has several implications and we will mention one interesting point for thought, which is the effect of temperature on laboratory studies examining social and cognitive processes.

Dr. Miriam Dishon-Berkowitz is a psychologist and organizational and marketing consultant.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.