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Study: Summer heat causes people to get grouchy

Researchers at Northwestern University set out to determine if heat causes people to be less cooperative. The researchers found that summer heat makes people grouchy, exhausted, and not as willing to help out.

Liuba Belkin is the lead author of the study. In an interview with Quartz, Belkin explained that this study is unprecedented in providing data that establishes a connection between ambient temperature and a lack of prosocial behavior.

“The point of our study is that ambient temperature affects individual states that shape emotional and behavioral reactions, so people help less in an uncomfortable environment,” said Belkin.

In the first experiment of the three-part study, the team evaluated data from a Russian retail chain to gain insight into how employees are impacted by their work environment. The analysis showed people working in hot temperatures were 50 percent less likely to actively listen to customers or assist them in making selections.

For the next part of the study, participants were paid to take a survey. Half of the individuals were asked to recall a time they were hot. All participants were then asked if they were willing to take a second survey for which they would not be compensated.

Out of the group who was asked to remember an uncomfortably hot situation, only 34 percent were willing to take the unpaid survey. 74 percent of the participants who were not asked about heat were ready and willing to help out with the second survey.

For the last part of the study, the researchers asked people sitting a hot room and a cool room to participate in a questionnaire. Only 64 percent of those in the heat were willing to answer the questions, while 95% of people sitting in the comfortable room were cooperative.

The research also revealed that those filling out the questionnaire in a pleasant temperature were six times more helpful with the quality and length of their answers than those who were in the heat.  

Previous research has shown that heat can actually make people aggressive and violent, and crime rates go up in the summertime. Scientists believe this is due to the fact that exhaustion and dehydration make people irritable and short-fused.

The three-part study is published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Source: Northwestern University

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