Warm or cold? An experiment to try

Fascinating report this morning via Google alerts, all about the psychology of temperature – no, really, it’s intriguing. Stick with me.

Think of the metaphors we use around our relationships with other people – ‘she’s such a warm person’; ‘he’s a cold character’; ‘she gave me an icy stare’; ‘I was out in the cold with them’; and so on.

Researchers at Toronto University have been running experiments with this, and conclude that the metaphors point to the truth of it – apparently we do feel colder when we feel rejected or excluded. It has nothing to do with the actual temperature of the room, it’s how they feel. People were asked to judge the ambient temperature after experiencing social exclusion, and they said it was colder than it actually was.

They were also offered hot and cold drinks after experiencing rejection, and they preferred hot coffee and soup to cold cola. (Have a look at the report – there’s much more to it.)

The scientists suggest there is work to do on connections between the environment and psychology, but they fail to consider the warmth generated by individuals, other than the warmth of being held as a child.

Isn’t there a much subtler but very real warmth (or lack of it) that we instinctively but unconsciously sense from others? Where does the perception of ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ people come from? It’s the energy we give off, and the subtle signals of body language that our subconscious recognizes even if our conscious mind doesn’t.

Warm or cold? Mimicking?

Warm or cold?


Another study looked at body language and the art or science of mimicking or mirroring. Do you know about this? When you’re talking to someone, and you mimic each other’s body language – your companion touches their face or crosses their legs, and you find yourself doing the same thing a moment later; there’s a subtle little dance going on with people who like each other – and it doesn’t happen with people who don’t like each other. You’ve experienced it or seen it in others, haven’t you? When one person is sitting with their legs crossed, body twisting away from the other person, who is sitting, legs uncrossed, leaning forward. It looks awkward, and it feels awkward if it goes on for more than a couple of minutes. We may not notice it consciously, but we get the impression of being at odds or on edge, and this makes us feel either that we don’t like the other person, or that they don’t like us.

Please tell me if you’ve experienced this – and if it’s all news to you, here’s a challenge: over the next couple of days, keep this mind. Watch yourself and other people to see if you can spot either the temperature thing, or the mirroring thing. Let me know what happens.


2 comments on “Warm or cold? An experiment to try

  1. I have read about the studies and observations of how couples can “mimic” each other. I’ve had such instances happen many times when with my boyfriend — and I did not realize these happenings until after I read about it. Perhaps that is why as the relationship carries on, each person in the couple will pick up certain habits, views, and interests from the other.

    • thanks, Frances – interesting comment.
      Not only established couples do this – it’s fun to watch people at a party or a business event to see who’s mirroring and who isn’t. It’s such an instinctive signalling system that we respond without realising; but our subconscious is on it…

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