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Warm Coffee, Warms The Heart Some Say

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, October 24, 2008 1:46 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Coffee, Friendship, Temperature, Emotional Reactions, Healthy Living

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IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto / cup of coffee / author: 1001Nights

You have probably heard the old adage “cold hands, warm heart,” a time or two over the years. But now, a new study finds the opposite to be true.

Researchers at Yale University conducted a study to determine if there was any association between emotional and physical heat.

Finding out wasn’t all that difficult – researchers found that participants that held a hot cup of coffee for 10 to 25 seconds warmed to strangers. While participants that held on to an iced cup of coffee had the entirely opposite effect.

Want to make a lasting impression? A warm cup of coffee “may be all you need to slant the situation in your favor,” says study author Lawrence E. Williams, a University of Colorado assistant professor of marketing. After all, who doesn’t love a fresh hot cup of coffee? Starbuck’s anyone?

This study is most recent to show how physical properties such as distance or temperature can effect emotional reactions on an unconscious level. Earlier research found, for instance, that after people were asked to mark remote points on a graph, they reported distant feelings about relatives.

“Our mental processes are one in the same with the body,” said John A. Bargh, a Yale University psychologist.

In the first experiment, researchers asked 41 participants to hold either an iced or warm cup of coffee. Then they were given a folder containing information about an unidentified individual and asked to evaluate his/her personality traits.

On a seven-point scale – those holding the warm coffee gave the stranger a median score of 4.7, slightly better than the median score of 4.3 from those holding the iced coffee.

For the next experiment researchers asked 53 participants split in two groups to hold either a frozen or heated therapeutic pad as part of a product evaluation. After completion of the task, the participants were given the option to choose a gift certificate that they could keep or share with another person.

The group of people holding hot packs was more likely to ask for the gift certificate, while the group who held the cold packs was more likely to keep the gift for them.

Researchers theorize that the link between emotional warmth and temperature begins as far back as infancy. Later on in life, a hot cup of java or a warm bubble bath might work by activating memories of those feelings, they said.

The study is published online in the journal Science. #


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