The ‘warm’ side of coldness: Cold promotes interpersonal warmth in negative contexts



The concrete experience of physical warmth has been demonstrated to promote interpersonal warmth. This well-documented link, however, tells only half of the story. In the current study, we thus examined whether physical coldness can also increase interpersonal warmth under certain circumstances. We conducted three experiments to demonstrate that the relationship between the experience of physical temperature and interpersonal outcomes is context dependent. Experiment 1 showed that participants touching cold (vs. warm) objects were more willing to forgive a peer's dishonest behaviour. Experiment 2 demonstrated the fully interactive effect of temperature and context on interpersonal warmth: Participants touching cold (vs. warm) objects were less likely to assist an individual who had provided them with good service (positive social context), but more likely to assist an individual who had provided them with poor service (negative social context). Experiment 3 replicated the results of Experiment 2 using the likelihood to complain, a hostility-related indicator, as the dependent variable: In a pleasant queue (positive social context), participants touching cold objects were more likely to complain and those touching warm objects were less likely to complain compared with the control group. This pattern was reversed in an annoying queue (negative social context).