The pleasant heat? A study of thermal-emotion associations

in Seeing and Perceiving
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Recent studies demonstrated that the physical feeling of warmth could make people judge others more favorably, act more generously (Williams and Bargh, 2008) and induce greater social proximity (IJzerman and Semin, 2009). In the present study, we examined whether temperature is implicitly associated with positive or negative valence. In Experiment 1, subjects judged the valence of the emotion words and pictures with two response buttons, of which one is physically warm and the other is physically cold, and measured the reaction time. The response button assignment can be either congruent (warm-positive/cold-negative) or incongruent (warm-negative/cold-positive). We found that for emotion words, the warm-positive/cold-negative congruence holds. However, for emotion pictures, reverse results were obtained. To further examine the thermo-valence association, follow-up implicit association tests (IATs) were conducted with positive/negative words and warm/cold words in Experiment 2, and positive/negative pictures with warm/cold pads in Experiment 3. The results from Experiment 2 show a tendency towards warm-positive/cold-negative congruence. However, such tendency was not found in Experiment 3. In summary, our results indicate that when the valence is presented semantically, it is implicitly associated with both physical thermal experience (EXP 1) and abstract thermal concept (EXP 2), and the association follows the common expectation of warm-positive/cold-negative congruence. However, when the valence is presented visually, the association is not consistent (EXP 1 and EXP 3). These findings suggest that temperature might interact differently with valences being elicited by semantic and visual information.

The pleasant heat? A study of thermal-emotion associations

in Seeing and Perceiving


IjzermanH.SeminG. R. (2009). The thermometer of social relations: mapping social proximity on temperaturePsychological Science 20( 10) 12141220.

WilliamsL. E.BarghJ. A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmthScience 322606607.

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