How Winter Wakes You Up

March 9 2015

James Patten


The winter season tends to get a lot of bad press, and there’s no denying that most of us are a tad excited that spring is just around the corner. However, the winter weather can have some rather surprising benefits, which might just give you a whole new appreciation for this coldest of seasons.

Warm temperatures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. According to Scientific American, research has demonstrated that warmer temperatures can in fact impair our decision-making abilities, and may even cause us to shy away from making decisions in the first place. Here, we take a closer look at this fascinating possibility and the science behind it.

Whilst the fact that our decisions can be influenced by the temperature of our surroundings might seem a little hard to believe, this all boils down to one simple fact; namely, that our brains are an organ. Crucially, just like all the other organs in our bodies, our brains also need energy to function and carry out complex cognitive processes such as decision making.

Our Brains Need Glucose

Our bodies utilise glucose as a source of energy for both physical behaviours and mental processes. And whether we are walking, talking, or performing effortful mental processes such as decision making, we rely on this same energy source. Crucially however, glucose is also a limited resource.

One of the most vital functions performed by our bodies is temperature regulation, and when we’re surrounded by an environment that is unusually hot or cold, we must utilise energy in the form of glucose, thereby maintaining a constant internal temperature in a process known as homeostasis.

Interestingly, there is evidence to suggest that cooling ourselves down typically requires more energy than warming ourselves up. This raises the rather fascinating possibility that the physical demands placed on our bodies by warmer temperatures reduces the amount of energy available for cognitive processes, thereby affecting our decision-making abilities.

Temperature and Cognitive Functioning

Enthralled by this possibility, researchers have conducted studies in order to test this intriguing theory. One team of researchers found that, when sat in a warm room, participants performed significantly worse on a proofreading task than those sat in a cool room, suggesting that even relatively simple tasks may be adversely affected by the temperature of an individual’s surroundings.

In a further study, the team also demonstrated that a similar effect was observed when participants were asked to perform more complex cognitive tasks, such as an intricate decision-making task.

 Finally, in a bid to examine the link between temperature-related differences in cognitive functioning and glucose supplies, the team of researchers also made sure that half of the participants in the study had low glucose supplies in comparison to the rest of the participants. Significantly, those individuals performing cognitive tasks in a warm room were found to behave in a very similar manner to those with depleted glucose levels.

On the whole, these studies suggest that warmer temperatures can result in the depletion of natural resources, and that this in turn may have a noticeable impact on our cognitive functioning.

We humans possess a remarkable ability to adapt to our environment. As such, these results do not mean that those living in warmer climes make poorer decisions than those living in more temperate environments. However, they do suggest that fluctuations in the temperature of our surroundings may have important implications for our decision-making abilities.

We hope you have enjoyed this rather fascinating insight into the influence of temperature on decision making. Here at Heritage Heating, we understand the importance of maintaining a comfortable environment in the workplace, and are providers of a fantastic range of industrial heaters and air-conditioning equipment to help keep you working at your best.

For more information about our range of heating solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact us today by giving us a call on 01509 814123 to speak to a member of our expert team.

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