Scientists Confirm That The Summer Heat Makes Us Very Very Grumpy

Ahhhhh, the summer. It’s a wonderful time really, isn’t it? Especially if you happen to be from a country that happens to spend 90% in utter darkness and misery. The sun is shining, the flowers have bloomed, you can openly drink in your garden, you can actually get a tan and everybody you meet seems to be in high spirits and a great mood. Or do they????

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WELL, as it turns out, probably not. Researchers Liuba Y. Belkin and Maryam Kouchaki, from Lehigh University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management respectively, have recently conducted not one, not two, but THREE experiments in order to test the actual effects of heat-related discomfort have on human emotions and behavior, and it has now been published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

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The researchers in question basically pulled data from a summer 2010 study which was conducted within Russia shopping malls (no, really) during the mega-heatwave. The original study had collected data from secret shoppers who were told to visit a popular chain of handbag and luggage stores… and MANY of these malls had a serious lack of air conditioning.

And what did the data show? Well, it showed that employees were 59% less likely to ask their customers if they needed any help. Nor would they make any kind of suggestions, volunteer their assistance, or show any basic signs of active listening whatsoever… surprise surprise. Despite this, the were just as clean as they had always been before the heatwave, it was just the whole “human relations” part that the mall workers seemed to have trouble with. And honestly, who could freakin’ blame them?

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During the second experiment, the researchers actually recruited 160 willing participants to take an online trivia quiz, and who doesn’t love doing those, right? Before starting the quiz, however, half the participants were instructed to imagine themselves in an uncomfortably warm setting. They then all answered a couple of questions about their feelings, and after that, they started on the quiz. Once that was all over and done with, they were all asked if they’d be willing to complete a short survey about their experience.

Here’s the clever part, though: the trivia quiz was, essentially, all a ruse (those crafty scientific devils!); it was actually the post quiz survey the researchers were really after. Even more specifically, they wanted to see if anybody took the survey at all.

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Now, a lot of people did fill in the survey. However, the people who’d been asked to think about being hot before taking the quiz were significantly less likely (44% versus 77%, to be precise) to do so than the others. They also ended up reporting feeling much more tired and far less happy than everyone else who participated. Isn’t that just WILD?

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And the FINAL experiment of the three (hey, these guys are nothing if not thorough, right?) involved 73 of the students who actually attended Belkin’s own college. Similar to the experiment before, each of these students was asked if they’d be willing to complete a 100-question survey under the premise of it being for “a good cause”. They were also separated into different rooms, one of which was – yep, you guessed it – MUCH hotter than the others.

Students who were situated in the 26.6°C hot room answered far fewer survey questions than any of those who were sitting rather comfortably in the nice cool air conditioning rooms (6 versus 35).

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“The point of our study is that ambient temperature affects individual states that shape emotional and behavioral reactions,” Belkin herself said, “so people helpless in an uncomfortable environment, whatever the reason they come up with to justify why they cannot do certain things.”

Belkin also says that these findings don’t just stop there, but they carry over into the workplace, and warns employers to keep their employees, just like zoo animals, at a safe and comfortable temperature (Are you seeing this, boss!?). Because if not, and you “sweat” them long enough, she says, and they’ll literally just quit. “We know that money matters,” she commented, “but only to a point.” CAN I GET AN AMEN UP IN HERE?

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So there you have it folks, heat makes people mean and useless. Honestly, I’m finding it hard pushed to find something that doesn’t actually make people meaner in some way shape or form these days, but hey-ho, what can you do? At least now if you’re at work and you feel like you’re sitting inside Krakatoa you can show this article to your employer and a form of threat. Silver linings, eh?

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