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

Department of Social Psychology, School of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.
Acta psychologica (Impact Factor: 2.19). 06/2012; 140(3):283-8. 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.

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Available from: Hans IJzerman
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    • "may suggest to them that their world is socially more ( less ) predictable . And people can act on momentary resources , and self - regulate their own feelings that relate to a lack of being close to others : Holding a warm object has been found to alleviate the detrimental effects associated with brief social exclusion ( Bargh and Shalev , 2012 ; IJzerman et al . , 2012 ) ."
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    • "In Study 1, we relied on the standard measure of thermal sensations employed in embodiment research. We assessed feelings of physical coldness by asking participants to estimate the ambient temperature of the room they were located in—a measure known to result in assimilation effects (cf., IJzerman & Semin, 2010; Szymkow et al., 2012). We hypothesized that reminding participants of money would lead to a lower temperature estimate compared to reminding participants of control concepts. "
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    • "Indeed, this influence of activation of abstract concepts on physical experiences has been found for a range of domains. For instance, not only does warmth induce feelings of interpersonal closeness (IJzerman and Semin, 2010), but feelings of loneliness can make people feel colder (Zhong and Leonardelli, 2008; IJzerman et al., 2012; Szymkow et al., 2013). Similarly, social suspicion can influence odor perception (Lee and Schwarz, 2012) and attitudinal ambivalence can lead people to make wavering movements (Schneider et al., 2013). "
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