Cold-blooded loneliness: Social exclusion leads to lower skin temperatures

Article (PDF Available)inActa psychologica 140(3):283-8 · June 2012with921 Reads
DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.05.002 · Source: PubMed
Being ostracized or excluded, even briefly and by strangers, is painful and threatens fundamental needs. Recent work by Zhong and Leonardelli (2008) found that excluded individuals perceive the room as cooler and that they desire warmer drinks. A perspective that many rely on in embodiment is the theoretical idea that people use metaphorical associations to understand social exclusion (see Landau, Meier, & Keefer, 2010). We suggest that people feel colder because they are colder. The results strongly support the idea that more complex metaphorical understandings of social relations are scaffolded onto literal changes in bodily temperature: Being excluded in an online ball tossing game leads to lower finger temperatures (Study 1), while the negative affect typically experienced after such social exclusion is alleviated after holding a cup of warm tea (Study 2). The authors discuss further implications for the interaction between body and social relations specifically, and for basic and cognitive systems in general.
Cold-blooded loneliness: Social exclusion leads to lower skin temperatures
Hans IJzerman
, Marcello Gallucci
, Wim T.J.L. Pouw
, Sophia C. Weiβgerber
Niels J. Van Doesum
, Kipling D. Williams
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
VU University, The Netherlands
University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
Purdue University, United States
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 24 November 2011
Received in revised form 30 April 2012
Accepted 2 May 2012
Available online 18 June 2012
PsycINFO codes:
Grounded cognition
Physical warmth
Conceptual metaphors
Being ostracized or excluded, even brieyandbystrangers,ispainfulandthreatens fundamental needs. Recent
work by Zhong and Leonardelli (2008) found that excluded individuals perceive the room as cooler and that they
desire warme r drin ks. A perspective that many rely on in embodiment is the theoretical idea that people use meta-
phorical associations to understand social exclusi on (seeLandau,Meier,&Keefer,2010).Wesuggestthatpeoplefeel
colder because they are colder. The results strongly support the idea that more complex metaphorical understand-
ings of socia l relations are scaffolded onto literal changes in bodi ly temperature : Being excluded in an online ball
tossing game leads to lower nger temperatures (Study 1), while the negative affect typically experienced after
such social exclusion is alleviated after holding a cup of warmtea(Study2).Theauthorsdiscussfurtherimplications
for the intera ction betwee n body and social relation s specically, and for basic and cognitive systems in general.
© 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
In the realm of social relations, people often use metaphors such
as she is cold and aloof or she is a warm person. Temperature
metaphors conveniently establish and explain what is meant, and
often show a remarkable similarity in imagery across languages. In
particular, people's social temperature is central to the perception
of relationships. These ideas are reminiscent of Asch's (1946) early
work, which proposed psychological warmth as being the central di-
mension in which people judge one another (see also Fiske, Cuddy, &
Glicke, 2007). But what may be the underlying cause for the strong
metaphorical connections between warmth and social relations? In
later work, Asch (1958) advanced the theory that the metaphor of
warmth may be related to the real, physical experience of warmth.
Metaphors based on physical warmth describing one's social
relations have thus been suggested to combine elements of very
concrete experiences and more abstract conceptions of how people
think of others, learned early in life. In the present report, we will go
beyond such metaphorical perspectives of warmth by suggesting that
temperature changes constitute the fabric of social relations, hinging
on specic, basic, and possibly biologically evolved simulators. We
hypothesized and found that people literally decrease in skin tempera-
ture after social exclusion. In addition, we found that fooling the n-
gers, by briey stimulating them with a cup of warm tea, eliminates
the negative feelings typically experienced after social exclusion.
2. Metaphorical perspectives on warmth and social relations
The recent metaphor perspective in psychology, proposed by cog-
nitive linguists Lakoff and Johnson (1999) and antedated by Asch
(1958), suggested that people experience concrete source domains
(e.g., physical warmth) jointly with abstract target concepts (e.g., af-
fection), and as a result conate the mapping of physical warmth
and affection (see also Johnson, 1997). Recent social psychological in-
vestigations seem to support this learning process: The experience of
subtle manipulations of physical warmth (as compared to coldness)
leads to the perception of another as more sociable (central to the
person characteristic of warm) and to greater prosocial behavior
of the participant (Williams & Bargh, 2008).
In addition, subtle manipulations of physical warmth (as compared
to coldness) lead to cognitions that form the basis for communal rela-
tions: people in physically warmer conditions use more verbs (indica-
tive of social closeness; Semin & Fiedler, 1988), are more focused on
relationships in their environment, and construe themselves as having
greater psychological overlap with the experimenter (IJzerman &
Semin, 2009). In other words, due to learning that physical warmth
Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
Corresponding author at: Department of Social Psychology, School of Social & Be-
havioral Sciences, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.
E-mail address: (H. IJzerman).
0001-6918/$ see front matter © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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journal homepage: locate/actpsy
and affection go hand-in-hand, people seem to develop mental repre-
sentations that include both abstract conceptions of affectionate feel-
ings and the sensorimotor experience of physical warmth, such that
when they are in a warm environment, they will interact as if they are
psychologically closer to others.
Yet, Lakoff and Johnson (1999) proposed unidirectionality to be cen-
tral to such conceptual metaphors. Indeed, experiencing affection al-
most always includes physical warmth (but not vice versa),
integrating the sensorimotor experience of physical warmth into the
mental representation of affection, but characteristics of the mental rep-
resentations of affection do not become an integral part of the mental
representation of warmth (cf. Landau, Keefer, & Meier, 2011). Such a
perspective was conrmed in a different domain by Casasanto and
Boroditsky (2008), who showed the connection between time and
space. Indeed, they nd that people's experience of space affects their
perception of time, but not vice versa.
However, in the domain of physical warmth and affection, the effect
seems to be bi-directional: When people are socially excluded or primed
(either physically or psychologically) with distance they perceive ambi-
ent temperature as lower (for our theoretical background, see also
IJzerman & Koole, 2011; also IJzerman & Semin, 2010; Zhong &
Leonardelli, 2008). Previous work has suggested that conceptual meta-
phors may be learned linguistically (Boroditsky, 2000), or experientially
(Casasanto, 2008), allowing for possibilities to map such effects bi-
directionally through the integration of sensorimotor experiences into
the abstract concept domain. In addition, recent reviews support the
idea that many conceptual metaphors may be dynamic and exible
(Santiago, Román, & Ouellet, 2011). However, do experiences related
to social relations rest on conceptual metaphors, or, if not, what may
then account for earlier ndings linking physical warmth and affection?
3. Evolved primitives for social relations
We propose that central to answering this question is the function-
ality of physical warmth in social relations and that the body may con-
strain people's learning processes for social relations. One may trace
back our approach to Bowlby (1969), who suggested that 1) people be-
come equipped with basic perceptual inputs to comprehend their social
environment, and that 2) close relationships serve security-provision
and distress-alleviation regulatory functions. In addition, Harlow's
(1958) classical work suggested that close, physical comfort may be a
biologically evolved need. He showed that close comfort is necessary
for healthy psychological functioning, as young rhesus monkeys dis-
played a greater preference for terry-clothed surrogate mothers as com-
pared to a wire mother, while those raised with a wire mother had
greater physiological and psychological problems. Harlow's (1958)
ndings resonate with and predated the Relational Models Theory,
which summarized people's basic forms of interactions into four ele-
mentary ways (Fiske, 1991).
The most basic of these interaction types are communal sharing rela-
tionships, which are relationships prototypically implemented among
close kin. Examples of communal sharing relationships are relationships
between motherinfant, close romantic partners, and tight knit military
units. In order to be able to identify how to interact with whom in what
way, Thomsen and Carey (in press) suggested that people may rely on
evolved primitives for elementary social relations (see also IJzerman &
Cohen, 2011; Williams & Bargh, 2008). Some support for this idea
seems to be derived from developmental work: Priming 18-month old
children with touch in the background of a picture (versus no touch)
signicantly increases helping behavior from those infants later (Over
& Carpenter, 2009
The proposition that some kind of structure is present on which young
children map their knowledge of social relations, is further buttressed by
ndings that securely attached children become more generous in phys-
ically warm conditions (versus cold), whereas insecurely attached chil-
dren lack this effect (q.v. IJzerman, Karremans, Thomsen, & Schubert,
in press; IJzerman & Koole, 2011). In order to learn such relational struc-
tures, some kind of basic system needs to be in place in order to learn
which kind of relation needs to learn in which way. In other words, a
basic type of model seems to be present among infants to engage in a
basic (nite) set of relations. Even though the child consistently encoun-
ters a bigger parent, it does not map relative size to understand its
trusting relation with the security-providing caregiver. Thomsen and
Carey (in press) therefore suggest that humans have evolved an innate,
nite set of conceptual primitives that specify relational models for com-
munal sharing [] coupled with innate input-analyzers that automati-
cally identify some instances [] in the social world.
4. Warmth as the fabric of social relations
Indeed, research has supported that people often rely on perceptual
symbols to represent and retrieve information. Theories on perceptual
symbol systems argue that people's neural architecture for imagery
and perception is the same architecture for conceptual knowledge
(Barsalou, 1999). In order to identify whom to rely on early in life, we
suggest that people come equipped with evolved simulators, onto
which later knowledge on sociocognitive metaphors (such as holding
warm feelings towards someone) are scaffolded (Mandler, 1992;
Williams, Huang, & Bargh, 2009).
But what kind of simulators may be relevant for social relations?
Fransson, Karlsson, and Nilsson (2005) found provocative evidence
that when a baby was held by the mother, the mean difference between
core and skin temperature was much lower than when the baby was in
its cot. Relatedly, loneliness leads to relatively high levels of total pe-
ripheral resistance, whereas people who are more socially connected
have relatively high cardiac output and better levels of autonomic activ-
ity (Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996; for an overview see
Cacioppo et al., 2002). A sense of disconnection may lead to vasocon-
striction, a state in which the blood vessels are narrowed, maintaining
body heat in the core, but not the periphery (like one's nger tempera-
ture). Such responses are probably built onto more basic human re-
sponses, work on which suggests that in times of threat (such as
stress, fear or pain), skin temperature drops (Mittelmann & Wolff,
1939). Empirical evidence since has supported this view (e.g., see
Boudewyns, 1976; for an overview see Rimm-Kaufman & Kagan, 1996).
Together, these ndings suggest that skin temperature plays a
vital role in interpersonal relations. In other words, when people are
excluded from social interactions, they may literally get colder n-
gers. Adding to the idea of mental schemas, we suggest that concepts
related to social relations rely on evolved simulators that may sense
physical warmth. Concretely, when people engage in social interac-
tions they should experience bodily temperature re-adjustments. In
order to test this proposition, we used a well-validated interaction
paradigm from social psychology, which has been used in over 70
studies (e.g., see Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000; Williams, 2007;
Van Beest & Williams, 2006).
Note that we hereby identify a simula-
tor, and presuppose the possibility of an innate biologically evolved
structure rather than empirically proving this proposition.
5. Research overview
In two studies, we aim to support the hypothesis that people ex-
perience literal temperature changes to process close and afliative
relations. In our rst study, we expected that if participants were so-
cially excluded, skin temperatures would drop. Conversely, in our
second study, we expected that if we articially stimulated the pe-
riphery of people's hands with physical warmth, people should per-
ceive as if they were again socially connected, causing negative
affect typically experienced after social exclusion to be alleviated.
A list of these studies is available at
284 H. IJzerman et al. / Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
6. Study 1: social exclusion is cold
6.1. Method
6.1.1. Participants
Forty-one VU University students (60.9% female; M
=2.09) were alternatingly assigned to the inclusion (n
or the exclusion condition (n
=21). One participant was excluded
for technical failure during temperature measurement.
6.1.2. Procedure and design
In our rst experiment, we ran individual sessions as part of an
experiment supposedly on concentration. After entering the lab, partic-
ipants rst read and answered questions of a neutral text on the history
of cognitive psychology and behaviorism (unrelated to the purpose of
the present experiment), which served as our baseline measure. All par-
ticipants had a xed, pre-determined amount of time for the baseline
measure. Participants then played a commonly-used ball-tossing para-
digm, called Cyberball (Williams & Jarvis, 2006; Williams et al.,
2000). In Cyberball, the participant and two other ostensible human
players toss around a ball in a computer-generated game. Participants
played as a third player and received the ball every two throws (Inclu-
sion Condition) or did not receive the ball from the co-players (Exclu-
sion Condition) after the rst two throws. Earlier studies have found that
social separation from others even in a virtual ball-tossing game has se-
vere detrimental affective consequences (Eisenberg, Lieberman, &
Williams, 2003). Finger temperature of participants' index ngers of
the non-dominant hand was measured continuously through a device
commonly used for industrial coolers, for a total of 24 times (with inter-
vals of on average 15.6 s, measured with 0.03125°C accuracy; see also
Fig. 1).
6.2. Results
To control for individual variances in nger temperature, we
obtained baseline temperatures during the reading of the text, with
computed averages over 4.7 measurements (lasting for approximately
7 s each). Baseline temperatures were subtracted from each value
obtained after the start of the experimental manipulation to obtain tem-
perature variation scores. The resulting variables were analyzed with a
growth-model obtained as a general mixed-model with time of mea-
surement as a continuous independent variable with random effects
and experimental manipulation (exclusion vs. inclusion) as dichoto-
mous independent variables. Participants' average temperature and
time effect were modeled as random. The degrees of freedom were
computed based on a KenwardRoger method (Kenward & Roger,
1997). The trend of temperature over time was estimated with a linear
and a quadratic component (Aiken & West, 1991). The quadratic com-
ponent was not statistically signicant (F(1, 37.7)=1.89, p =0.176)
and thus removed from the model. The interaction between time com-
ponents and experimental condition was computed to estimate the ef-
fect of the manipulation on the trend of temperature over time.
The analyses showed that participants' temperature changed
throughout the experiment, depending on whether they were included
or excluded from their group, F(1, 38)=6.07, p =0.018. Excluded par-
ticipants showed a decrease in nger temperature during the experi-
ment (B= 0.011, t(38)= 2.51, p=0.016), whereas included
participants showed no detectable change in
nger temperature
(B=0.005, t(37.9)=1.01, p=0.316; see also Fig. 2). Temperature dif-
ferences between values after the experimental manipulation and the
baseline measurement were compared between the included and ex-
cluded condition. The difference increased over time: When the manip-
ulation was introduced, the difference between included and excluded
participants was 0.099°C, F(1, 38)=0.54, p= 0.468; half-way during
the experiment the difference was 0.405°C, F(1, 38)=4.78, p=0.034,
with the excluded group showing a temperature colder than baseline
= 0.163) and the included group warmer than baseline
=0.242); at the end of the experiment the difference was
0.71C, F(1, 38)=6.25, p=0.016, with the inclusion group showing
a slight, but non-signicant, increase (as compared to baseline)
=0.333), and the exclusion group a decrease of 0.378°C (M
Fig. 1. Participant playing Cyberball, with measurement device connected to non-
dominant hand.
Fig. 2. Predicted change in temperature over time, for each participant (dots) and for
the two groups (lines). Green dots indicate participants in the exclusion condition,
black dots participants in the inclusion condition. The green line indicates average
predicted values in the excluded condition, black line indicates averages for included
285H. IJzerman et al. / Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
0.378). Participants thus literally had colder skin temperatures after
they were excluded from a group playing a ball-tossing game.
7. Study 2: how warmth rekindles the soul
Based on the results obtained in our rst experiment, we hypothe-
sized that people's skin temperature simulations are important for
people in determining consciously or not their affective state. If
this is correct, then articially inducing warm ngers might alleviate
people's negative affective states resulting from social exclusion. Physi-
cal warmth may fool the conceptual system by creating a state as-if the
relation was present (see Damasio, 1999; IJzerman & Semin, 2009;
Williams & Bargh, 2008), paralleling a sensation of interpersonal
touch. In line with Bowlby's (1969) ideas that 1) people become
equipped with basic perceptual inputs to comprehend their social envi-
ronment, and that 2) close relationships serve security-provision and
distress-alleviation regulatory functions, we hypothesized that physical
warmth repairs the relationship of those who are excluded. Our hy-
pothesis is supported by recent ndings that people use physical
warmth nonconsciously as a self-regulatory mechanism to buffer
against loneliness (Bargh & Shalev, 2012).
In order to measure whether the conceptual system could indeed be
fooled, we requested participants to report their affective states as a
proxy instead of reporting directly about their experience of the induced
relationship. In earlier research, IJzerman and Semin (2010) found that
priming participants through language with their reported relationship
state induces commensurable results to their real experience.We thus
chose not to ask participants directly about their social experience, but
instead about affective states, which have been reported to serve as a re-
liable proxy to measure feelings of exclusion (cf. Eisenberg et al., 2003;
for a recent meta-analysis, see Gerber & Wheeler, 2009). In our second
study, we therefore expected that if participants would be induced
with a subtle prime of physical warmth, their negative affect would dis-
appear after social exclusion. We did not expect this effect to occur for
the cold condition.
7.1. Method
7.1.1. Participants
Eighty-six VU University students (41.9% female; M
=2.33) took part in a computer-based study, again with a
game of Cyberball.
7.1.2. Procedure and design
In the second study we again excluded or included participants with
the same ball-tossing paradigm. After exactly 3 min of playing, the
game was interrupted by an ostensible (but preprogrammed) error
screen, forcing participants to request help from our confederate. Our
confederate entered the cubicle holding a glass mug containing either
warm or cold tea and asked participants to temporarily (30 s) hold
the glass, while xing the error. Our main dependent variable focused
on the intensity of the average of four negative affective states which
were used in earlier Cyberball research (Williams et al., 2000; Zadro,
Williams, & Richardson, 2004); all answered on a 5-point scale (bad,
sad, tense, stressed, Cronbach's α =0.80; e.g., I felt bad; from 1 =
not at all to 5 = very much). Participants were randomly assigned to
one of four experimental conditions.
7.2. Results
Participants' reported negative affect served as dependent vari-
able in a 2 (Cyberball: exclusion vs. inclusion)× 2 (temperature:
warm vs. cold) between-participants ANOVA.
The analyses showed that participants' reported negative affect
depended on the combination of the inclusion manipulation and the
temperature condition (η
=0.071, F(3, 82)=6.27, p=0.014). Exclud-
ed participants in the cold condition reported a greater level of negative
affect as compared to the other three conditions (F(1, 82)=35.68,
pb 0.001, and to the warm tea condition, F(1, 82)=11.22, p=0.001.
The exclusion-warm condition did not differ signicantly from the
two inclusion-conditions (F b 1; see also Fig. 3). Participants' negative
feelings in the warm-exclusion condition were thus alleviated, con-
rming the idea that a warm cup can fool the conceptual system by
reducing the negative effects of social exclusion.
8. General discussion
In our two experiments we found that people who were socially
excluded showed a drop in nger temperature. Furthermore, warming
the ngers through holding a warm cup of tea after a period of social ex-
clusion alleviated negative affect typically experienced after social
suffering. Our experiments are in line with the idea that perceptions
of (physical) warmth play a central role in social cognition (Asch,
1946; IJzerman & Semin, 2009; Semin & Garrido, 2012; Semin &
Smith, 2008; Williams & Bargh, 2008). Recent theoretical analyses
have suggested that physical warmth is an inherent part of people's
conceptual system, serving to understand social relations (Landau,
Meier, & Keefer, 2010). In the present research we go beyond these
analyses by suggesting an additional interpretation. Physical warmth
serves to repair the negative feelings of exclusion, and we suggest that
people may use the perceptual system to interpret their social environ-
ment. We thus think that social exclusion leads to a decrease in skin
temperature as an evolved simulator (Barsalou, 2008; IJzerman &
Koole, 2011).
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed. First, one
may be concerned about the relation to earlier research, where specic
emotions have been shown to map onto nger temperature. Ekman,
Levenson, and Friesen (1983) for example found that people's nger
temperature increases as a function of the expression of anger. A similar
idea is reected in research on the connection between abstract
concepts and concrete experiences: People estimate temperature as
To test the robustness of our results against possible outliers, we used a jackknife
methodology: We estimated the model after dropping one participant from the sample,
repeating the estimation for each participant. Results showed that the crucial interaction
(time×condition) remained signicant in all jackknife samples, with p-values ranging
from 0.008 to 0.035. Thus, no particular participant was responsible for the effect we de-
scribed in the entire sample. We also analyzed our data by excluding smokers from our
sample, as they often experience greater difculties in temperature regulation (Cleophas,
Fennis, & van't Laar, 1982). Our effects however remained virtually identical by excluding
smokers, F(1, 28)= 3.68, p=0.001.
Eleven participants were excluded from our analyses as they immediately put the
glass of tea on the table, after receiving it from our confederate.
Fig. 3. Reported negative affect as a function of Cyberball condition and temperature
condition. Error bars represent the standard error.
286 H. IJzerman et al. / Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
higher when primed with anger (Wilkowski, Robinson, Meier, Carter, &
Feltman, 2009).
However, specic embodied states are not simple determinants of
specic cognitions and/or behaviors like anger. When priming partici-
pants with psychological closeness (distance), they similarly estimate
room temperatures to be higher (lower; IJzerman & Semin, 2010). Com-
parable perceptual states may thus be associated with different affec-
tive or cognitive states, but may perhaps rely on slightly different
multi-modal experiences (Barsalou, 2008). Importantly, the context of
the situation and the complex internal representation of the person
matters (cf. IJzerman & Cohen, 2011). As such, it may be unclear how
specic bodily states can be linked to specic types of emotions. In par-
ticular, sometimes the labeling of an emotion may even lead to different
functionalities, leading us to wonder whether social and non-social
anger relate in terms of their physiological proles (cf. Wilson-
Mendenhall, Barrett, Simmons, & Barsalou, 2011).
Another important question is the meaning of physical warmth in
relation to relationships. In the present work, we measured nger tem-
perature to assess responses to exclusion and negative affect as a proxy
of the state of participants' relationships. It was important to assess this
indirectly, as we expected that to simply request participants to report
about their broken relationship would induce an as-if state about the re-
lationship, which research has suggested to a re-experience of the ear-
lier physical temperature simulation (IJzerman & Semin, 2010; see
also Barsalou, 2008; Boroditsky & Prinz, 2008; Damasio, 1999). Because
we did not directly assess participants' phenomenological experience of
the relationship, one may suggest that exclusion and physical warmth
simply evoke hedonically charged cues.
We nd this alternative account highly unlikely, for a number of rea-
sons. First, across different reports, physical warmth does not make par-
ticipants feel more positive (IJzerman & Semin, 2009; Williams & Bargh,
2008), which strongly points to the idea that physical warmth repairs
the broken relationship, and only acquires hedonically charged mean-
ing within a specic context (as also evidenced by the lack of decrease
in negative affect in our inclusion condition). It thus seems that some
kind of conceptual processing is necessary to trigger positive or nega-
tive affective states (see also Kavanagh, Andrade, & May, 2005;
Veltkamp, Aarts, & Custers, 2008). This is further supported by ndings
showing afliative and achievement needs to modulate affect in a
Stroop paradigm (Kazén & Kuhl, 2005). Bargh and Shalev's (2012) nd-
ings that people nonconsciously self-regulate their feelings of loneliness
or disconnectedness through physical warmth further attest to our pro-
posal. Finally, one may be reminded that our conception that sensing
physical warmth has become part of an innate system converges with
Harlow's (1958) classical ndings, which suggest that close, physical
comfort is an evolved need.
In addition, the means of the exclusion and inclusion conditions
were nearly identical in terms of magnitude (M
=0.333 vs. M
0.378), which seems to suggest a temperature increase in our inclu-
sion condition. However, this change in our inclusion condition was
non-signicant. We think that this may be due to two potential causes.
First, participants in the lab are not likely to be close and communal
with relative strangers (whereas they might respond communally auto-
matically to other close partners; see Häfner & IJzerman, 2011). In addi-
tion, previous research nds that cues of psychological distance are
more salient than cues of psychological closeness (IJzerman & Semin,
2010), while feelings of inclusion in a ball-tossing game may not neces-
sarily constitute an uplifting communal experience (Wesselmann, Bagg,
& Williams, 2009). We think that having participants interact either
with close others or over-including them in the Cyberball game has
the potential to show the proposed symmetry in temperature changes.
We do hasten to add that we do not mean that social exclusion
does not cause a stress response. In fact, we believe that (very
basic) stress responses are recycled for other (more complex) pur-
poses. By recruiting such basic physiological processes, people early
in life will be able to build reliable social relations, by knowing
whom to rely on, and in what way. Indeed, people's more advanced
cognitive system re-uses or is likely to be scaffolded onto more
ancient neural systems (Anderson, 2010; Williams et al., 2009), in
which stress responses form part of cognizing about social relations
(Ganzel, Morris, & Wethington, 2010).
9. How social relations (may) work: future directions
In terms of the representations of relationships, the link between
physical warmth and affection has often been depicted as primarily con-
stituted of top-down knowledge structures, conceptually linking image
schemas of warmth and affection (Landau et al., 2010). We propose that
such higher order representations are scaffolded onto actual biologically
evolved simulators to mark, sustain, and sanction social relations (Fiske,
1991, 1992, 2004; Piaget & Inhelder, 1969; Williams et al., 2009). This ad-
ditional process is important also for broader issues concerning relation-
ships, as it may lead to different research strategies in for example
treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), antisocial personality dis-
orders, or clientpatient relationships (see also Neumann et al., 2011).
We do t hink that highe r or der r epresentatio ns of relationship
constitute a very important par t of the way that people interact
with one another . In particul ar, repeated social situations may be-
come entrenched, in that the situated conceptualization comes
to differ fr om the originally evolved simulator (Barsalou, 1999,
2008; Schubert & Koole, 2009), as in the case of intern al wor kin g
models o f r elationshi ps (e.g., Johnson, Dweck, & Chen, 2007). Inter-
nal work ing models of a ttachment modulate the way that young
children respond to manipulations of physical warmth already
early in life. In fact, IJ zer man et al. (in p res s) found that young chil-
dren who associate cl ose r elationshi ps with safety and security
(securely attached children) do bec ome more genero us in phy si-
cally warm conditions, whereas those that lack this association
also lack this effect (IJzerman & Koole, 2011). In addition, differ-
ences in communali ty in a given relatio nship determine the level
to which part ners su pport e ach ot her aut omat icall y (Häfner &
IJzerman, 2011).
10. Final remarks
One of the universal aspects of human (social) psychology is to
build and maintain relationships. Classic attachment theories assume
that common building blocks of attachment are necessary in the rst
stages of life ( Bowlby, 1969). For such elementary building blocks,
evolved simulators may be indispensable. Our research suggests
that physical warmth and social thinking are not just a function of
the cultural (non)conscious structuring of experience. Rather than
associations between colder temperatures and episodes of loneliness,
we propose that evolved simulators are implemented across different
generations, closely linking physical warmth and affection in the
physical body (Caporael, 1997; Kaschak & Maner, 2009; see also
Harlow, 1958). Maternal touch seems to greatly impact the difference
between core and skin temperature, preventing hypothermia, a major
cause of death among neonates. In other words, the re-experience or
perception of physical warmth might act as mechanism promoting
initial survival in a social environment (cf. Kasahara, Takayanagi,
Kawada, Itoi, & Nishimori, 2007), which forms the basis for other
mechanisms that are reliant on higher-order mental representations.
To close, we would like to note that the body's archit ecture is like-
ly to have developed in order to be able to adapt and bond quickly,
without conscious effort. We sugges t that the understand ing of ab-
stract c oncepts like affection th rough concrete experiences such as
physical warmth is often derived from specic affordances with
which people have become equipped. People mark social relations
through actual change s in bodily temperatures, possibly offering
evolutionary advantages in early life stages.
287H. IJzerman et al. / Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
We are much indebted to Cor Stoof and the VU Helpdesk for their
continued technical support and Sander Koole, Miguel Kazén, Julius
Kuhl, Justin Saddlemyer, Alan Fiske's International Relational Models
Lab, Larry Barsalou, the editor Michael Kaschak, and one anonymous
reviewer for their inspiring discussions and/or helpful comments on
an earlier version of this manuscript.
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288 H. IJzerman et al. / Acta Psychologica 140 (2012) 283288
    • "The current results also add to an accumulating set of findings that assess measures of actual temperature and social warmth. Skin temperature, a peripheral measure of warmth [21] , perceptions of room temperature, an external measure of warmth [15], and now oral temperature, an internal measure of warmth, have now been associated with social processes. Although the complex relationship between peripheral and central measures of temperature is beyond the scope of the current findings, future work may benefit from directly investigating core temperature (e.g. via rectal methods, the most accurate method to assess core temperature [43]) and peripheral measures during social experiences to better understand the association between core and peripheral measures. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An emerging literature suggests that experiences of physical warmth contribute to social warmth—the experience of feeling connected to others. Thus, thermoregulatory systems, which help maintain our relatively warm internal body temperatures, may also support feelings of social connection. However, the association between internal body temperature and feelings of connection has not been examined. Furthermore, the origins of the link between physical and social warmth, via learning during early experiences with a caregiver or via innate, co-evolved mechanisms, remain unclear. The current study examined the relationship between oral temperature and feelings of social connection as well as whether early caregiver experiences moderated this relationship. Extending the existing literature, higher oral temperature readings were associated with greater feelings of social connection. Moreover, early caregiver experiences did not moderate this association, suggesting that the physical-social warmth overlap may not be altered by early social experience. Results provide additional support for the link between experiences of physical warmth and social warmth and add to existing theories that highlight social connection as a basic need on its own.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2016
    • "Likewise, IJzerman and Semin (2010) showed that physical and semantic inductions of social distance led to perceptions of lower room temperature. In addi- tion, IJzerman et al. (2012) found that people who were excluded during an online game had a drop in skin temperature , while those who were included did not. Further, this relationship between physical coldness and loneliness appears to be bidirectional: Bargh and Shalev (2012) found that people reported feeling more lonely after holding a cold object in their hand for a short duration, compared to those who either held a warm object or did not hold any object. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous research shows that negative emotional charity appeals tend to be more effective than other emotional charity appeals because they evoke sympathy. However, feelings of loneliness reduce individuals' ability to sympathize with others. Based on grounded cognition research, we propose that exposure to images of cold objects will lead to feelings of physical coldness, which in turn will increase perceptions of loneliness, such that negative emotional charity appeals that are viewed following exposure to cold (versus neutral or warm) images will be less effective at eliciting donations. Findings from four studies provide support for this hypothesis and delineate the link between the presence of certain commonplace visual images in the media and their influence on the effectiveness of embedded negative charity appeals, and identify a new context effect that attenuates the effectiveness of charity appeals.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2016
    • "After holding a warm object, participants increased their trusting behavior in an economics game (Kang, Williams, Clark, Gray, & Bargh, 2011, Study 2), reported feeling closer to other people (IJzerman & Semin, 2009 ), and young children primed with physical warmth were more generous (prosocial) to other children (IJzerman et al., 2012) and felt more connected to those they knew (Inagaki & Eisenberger, 2013). Research has also demonstrated the complementary finding that social coldness in the form of rejection and exclusion produces feelings of physical coldness (e.g., reduced estimates of room's temperature; see review in Bargh & Shalev, 2012) and causes an actual decrease in body temperature (IJzerman et al., 2012); thus, the seeking of physical warmth to restore body temperature homeostasis after experiences of social coldness seems a quite reasonable strategy. Other researchers in addition to us have found that people seek out physical warmth after experiences of social coldness as from rejection and exclusion (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008). "
    Full-text · Dataset · May 2016 · Journal of Advertising
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