Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's a question of temperature

A friend passed on this very interesting article from the blog Neurophilosophy. The article points to research showing how temperature affects how we perceive relationships. In the subjects there would awaken warm feelings in warm spaces whilst drinking warm beverages, likewise the test subjects would act more coldly or describe people in the situation as less generous in cold spaces whilst drinking cold beverages.

A test about the relationship between objects in a perceptual focus was also performed. In the image above the triangle of triangles was first shown to the test subjects, also now divided in hot and cold groups. After the subjects were shown the two lower diagrams - a triangle of squares and a square of triangles, and asked to make an opinion on which of the two were more like the first one. The target of the task was similarities in relationships, not that of properties, which makes the square of triangles more similar, and sure enough - test subject from the hot room group were more likely to give that answer.

"In line with earlier work, this study shows that temperature has a direct effect on social relations. It also shows that temperature affects language and the perception of relationships between inanimate objects. The findings support idea that thought processes are grounded in bodily sensations. Specifically, it provides further evidence that interpersonal relationships - which for most of us are critical in everyday life - are strongly grounded in temperature. Furthermore, the interaction between social cognition and temperature is apparently bi-directional: warmer temperatures induce social proximity, while loneliness makes people feel colder. In terms of brain function, there is evidence that a part of the brain called the insula is involved in processing both psychological and physical warmth. "

We think with our entire bodies. What we feel, we think. And if our thermoception has such influence on how we think/feel/relate, just imagine how much the entire cavalry of our sense apparatus picks up from our environment and the spaces we are in. Without us knowing it we are victims to our senses. The brain or what we think with is not a separate entity from our bodies.

Wrapping up I must comment on the stereotype of Skandinavins being cold and people from the Mediterranean are said to be worm. Well, maybe it's actually something in the air. Also I couldn't help but referring to The Balloon Farms hit "A Question of Temperature" in the title of this entry, if anyone remember that one.


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