Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cold And Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?

Date:
September 15, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
There are numerous examples in our daily language of metaphors which make a connection between cold temperatures and emotions such as loneliness, despair and sadness. We are taught at a young age that metaphors are meant to be descriptive and are not supposed to be taken literally. However, recent studies suggest that these metaphors are more than just fancy literary devices and that there is a psychological basis for linking cold with feelings of social isolation.

When we hear somebody described as “frosty” or “cold”, we automatically picture a person who is unfriendly and antisocial. There are numerous examples in our daily language of metaphors which make a connection between cold temperatures and emotions such as loneliness, despair and sadness.

We are taught at a young age that metaphors are meant to be descriptive and are not supposed to be taken literally. However, recent studies suggest that these metaphors are more than just fancy literary devices and that there is a psychological basis for linking cold with feelings of social isolation.

Psychologists Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoffrey Leonardelli from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management wanted to test the idea that social isolation might generate a physical feeling of coldness. They divided a group of volunteers into two groups. One group recalled a personal experience in which they had been socially excluded—rejection from a club, for example. This was meant to tap into their feelings of isolation and loneliness. The other group recalled an experience in which they had been accepted into a group.

Then, the researchers had all the volunteers estimate the temperature in the room, on the pretense that the building’s maintenance staff wanted that information. The estimates ranged widely, from about 54 degrees F to a whopping 104 degrees F. Here’s the interesting part: Those who were told to think about a socially isolating experience gave lower estimates of the temperature. In other words, the recalled memories of being ostracized actually made people experience the ambient temperature as colder.

“We found that the experience of social exclusion literally feels cold,” Zhong said. “This may be why people use temperature-related metaphors to describe social inclusion and exclusion.”

In another experiment, instead of relying on volunteers’ memories, the researchers triggered feelings of exclusion by having the volunteers play a computer-simulated ball tossing game. The game was designed so that some of the volunteers had the ball tossed to them many times, but others were left out.

Afterwards, all the volunteers rated the desirability of certain foods and beverages: hot coffee, crackers, an ice-cold Coke, an apple, and hot soup. The findings were striking. As reported in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the “unpopular” volunteers who had been ostracized during the computer game were much more likely than the others to want either hot soup or hot coffee. Their preference for warm food and drinks presumably resulted from physically feeling cold as a result of being excluded.

“It’s striking that people preferred hot coffee and soup more when socially excluded,” Leonardelli said. “Our research suggests that warm chicken soup may be a literal coping mechanism for social isolation.”

These results open up new opportunities in exploring the interaction between environment and psychology, such as the study of mood disorders (e.g., Seasonal Affective Disorder). Research on Seasonal Affective Disorder has focused on the idea that lack of sunlight during winter results in feelings of depression in normally healthy people.

The current study indicates that the cold temperatures may also contribute to feelings of sadness and isolation felt during the winter months. In addition, this study suggests that raising the thermostat a bit might be an easy method of promoting group interaction and cooperation in social settings.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Cold And Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915122729.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, September 15). Cold And Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915122729.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Cold And Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915122729.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins