Hot temperatures make people moody, less helpful: study

Hot temperatures make people moody, less helpful: study

Uncomfortably hot temperatures may make people moody and less likely to be helpful or "pro- social", a study suggests.

"Ambient temperature affects individual states that shape emotional and behavioural reactions, so people help less in an uncomfortable environment," said Liuba Belkin, associate professor at Lehigh University in the US.

Researchers conducted a three part study. They collected data from a large retail chain for part one of the study and analysed the differences in individual behaviour under hot versus normal temperature conditions.

They found that clerks working in an uncomfortably hot environment were 50 per cent less likely to engage in pro social behaviours, including volunteering to help customers, listening actively, and making suggestions.

For part two, a randomised online experiment was conducted. The team asked paid online panel to just recall or imagine situations where they were uncomfortably hot and then, after measuring their feelings and perceptions and a number of survey questions, asked them to help with another survey for free.

Participants were not even experiencing heat at the moment - and researchers still found that, compared to the control group, they were more fatigued, which reduced their positive affect and, ultimately, pro-social behaviour, researchers said.

Only 34 per cent of the participants who were asked to recall a time when they were uncomfortably hot were willing to help with the free survey, compared to 76 per cent in the control group.

Researchers also noted that recalling being uncomfortably hot also increased the negative affectivity, but it did not have any impact on pro-social behaviour, while reduction in positive affect did.

In part three of the study, researchers found that even slight fluctuations in temperature changed behaviour. They chose students in two sections of a college management course as subjects for a field experiment.

One group sat in a lecture in a room that was uncomfortably warm, the other group sat in a room that was held in an air-conditioned room - there was a 15 per cent difference in the actual room temperature.

The team then asked the students to answer a series of questions and fill out a survey 'for a non-profit organisation that serves children and underprivileged individuals in the local community.'

Researchers found only 64 per cent in the hotter room agreed to answer at least one question, while in the cooler room 95 per cent did so.

Even those who agreed to help in the hotter room helped less, answering, on average, six questions, almost six times less than the number of questions answered in the in cooler room (average 35).

Researchers were also able to replicate the mechanism that drives reduction in pro social behaviour - the same pattern of results as in study two showed that uncomfortably warm classroom temperature increased fatigue, reduced positive affect and led to less helping.

The study was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

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