Pictures of cold temperatures help people to control their thoughts, new research finds.
Imagining yourself in that cold environment helps to ‘cool down’ any quick emotional responses.
Dr Idit Shalev, who led the study, said:
“Metaphorical phrases like ‘coldly calculating,’ ‘heated response,’ and ‘cool-headed’ actually have some scientific validity, which we demonstrate in our study.”
Studies have already shown that people who are actually colder, exhibit more cognitive control, Dr Shalev said:
“Previous research focused on the actual effect of temperature on the psychological phenomenon known as ‘cognitive control.’
But this is the first time we were able to measure the effects of perceived temperature.”
For the study, people were asked to simply look in the other direction to a moving object.
This can be difficult as the eye is naturally drawn towards a moving object.
Beforehand, some people were shown summery pictures, others shown wintry scenes.
They had to imagine they were present in the picture.
Dr Shalev said:
“The result indicated that those viewing the cold landscape did better and that even without a physical trigger, cognitive control can be activated through conceptual processes alone.
While signals of warmth induce a relaxed attitude, cool signals trigger alertness and a possible need for greater cognitive control.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychological Research (Halali et al., 2017).