Warm Hands, Warm Hearts

Warm Hands, Warm Hearts

One of my mother’s sayings was “cold hands, warm heart”. Now it looks as if that is in doubt, as American academics have set out to prove my mother wrong by testing the impact of warmth on the perceptions of adults.

A high powered team, led by John Bargh, Professor of Social Psychology at Yale University, in cooperation with Assistant Professor Lawrence Williams at Boulder University of Colarado, have been addressing the theory that our judgment of a person’s character can be influenced by something as simple as the warmth of the drink we hold in our hand. They set about testing whether hot and iced drinks influenced perceptions of others after noting how frequently “warm” and “cold” are used to describe personalities.

The methodology consisted of two separate experiments. For the first experiment, 41 undergraduate students were casually asked to hold a hot or cold cup of coffee for a moment. The students weren’t aware that holding the cup was part of the experiment. They were then given a brief fictional description of a person and asked to rate 10 personality traits based on this summary. Those who held hot cups were more likely to assign positive “warmer” traits to the fictional person than those who held the cold cups. The second experiment was presented as a product evaluation study, in which 53 participants were asked to hold hot or cold therapeutic pads for a moment and then judge the quality of the product. At the end of the test, as a reward for their participation, they could choose either a reward for themselves or a voucher to give to a friend. Among those who handled a hot therapeutic pad, 54% chose the voucher for a friend, compared with 25% of those who held the cold pad.

Reporting the experiments in a recent edition of “Science”, Professor Bargh writes “It appears that the effect of physical temperature is not just on how we see others, it affects our own behavior as well. Physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer – more generous and trusting – as well.” Let Assistant Professor Williams have the last word. “In a point-of-service or communications interaction, paying attention to the fact that customers are tied to the physical world in which buying behavior occurs is important. If you are running a promotion outdoors on a cold day, maybe giving away a warm cookie will help you make connections with consumers. It gives marketers and managers more tools to work with.”

So now you know. My mother would have taken some convincing about all this.

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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