Study: Feeling Cold is Contagious

There's a saying: Put a sweater on if your mother feels cold. It may seem silly, but a recent study shows that feeling cold can, indeed, be contagious.

There's a saying: Put a sweater on if your mother feels cold. It may seem silly, but a recent study shows that feeling cold can be contagious.


Melissa Dahl from NYMag writes on the research, published online on PLOS ONE, led by Neil Harrison, a Neuropsychiatrist from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Harrison conducted a study where 36 students were shown a three-minute video containing one of four scenes: an actor adding hot water to a clear container and putting a hand in the water; an actor dumping a bag full of ice into a transparent container and placing his right or left hand in the water; or one of two scenes showing an actor placing a hand in water. Only the hand was shown, so the actor didn't reveal any facial cues as to the temperature of the water.

Researchers measured the temperature of the participants' hands before and after viewing one of the videos. They found that the participants that watched the actors submerge their hands into the ice water experienced a significant drop in their own corresponding hand. However, no significant change was measured with participants that watch the hot or neutral videos.

In his paper, Harrison puzzles over why the hot water video had no effect. He explains it could be how the video was set up. Participants could see the ice cubes floating in the cold water throughout the three-minute scene, but the steam rising from the hot water was only visible in the beginning of the video. Other than that there were no visible cues that screamed “hot water” in the participants minds. Then again, Harrison offers another possibility in press release:

"There is some evidence to suggest that people may be more sensitive to others appearing cold than hot."

Why this “temperature contagion” exists could have roots in our ability to empathize with others.

"Humans are profoundly social creatures and much of humans' success results from our ability to work together in complex communities--this would be hard to do if we were not able to rapidly empathize with each other and predict one another's thoughts, feelings and motivations."

Read more at NYMag

Photo Credit: Patty Pattara/Flickr

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Radical theory says our universe sits on an inflating bubble in an extra dimension

Cosmologists propose a groundbreaking model of the universe using string theory.

Getty Images/Suvendu Giri
Surprising Science
  • A new paper uses string theory to propose a new model of the universe.
  • The researchers think our universe may be riding a bubble expanded by dark energy.
  • All matter in the universe may exist in strings that reach into another dimension.
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Ernst Haeckel
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Top Video Splash
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and things that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way.".