Loneliness makes people feel literally cold
According to psychologists, people feeling excluded found a room more chilly than those who felt loved and included. Lonely people also chose comforting hot soup or coffee, rather than a soft beverage, to drink. The study, by the University of Toronto, suggests that raising the temperature could help someone who is feeling low in the same way that people with seasonal affective disorder are helped with light therapy.
The research was welcomed by Dr Lesley Prince, a lecturer in psychology at Birmingham University, who said: “This is very interesting. “I particularly like the idea that if people are feeling despondent or lonely, you could help them feel better by putting the temperature up.”
As part of the Canadian study, 65 students were divided into two groups. One group recalled a personal experience in which they had been felt isolated or lonely, such as being rejected from a club. The other group recalled an experience in which they had been accepted.
Researchers then asked everyone to estimate the room’s temperature. The estimates varied wildly from about 54F (12C) to 104F (40C) – with those who had thought about an isolating experience giving lower estimates of the temperature. In the second experiment, the researchers asked 52 students to play a computer game in which some of the volunteers had the ball tossed to them many times, but others were left out.
Afterwards, all the volunteers were asked to rate the desirability of hot coffee, crackers, soft-drinks, an apple, or hot soup. The “unpopular” participants were much more likely than the others to want either hot soup or coffee.
The researchers suggested their preference for warm food and drinks resulted from physically feeling cold as a result of being excluded. Dr Chen-Bo Zhong, who led the research, which is published in the journal Psychological Science, said: “We found that the experience of social exclusion literally feels cold.