Psychological Research

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 282–288 | Cite as

Preferred, but not objective temperature predicts working memory depletion

  • Roberta Sellaro
  • Bernhard Hommel
  • Meriem Manaï
  • Lorenza S. Colzato
Original Article

Abstract

The present study investigated the relationship between objective temperature and subjective temperature preferences in predicting performance in simple and complex cognitive tasks. We assessed the impact of room temperature (warm and cold) on the ability to “update” (and monitor) working memory (WM) representations in two groups of participants, who differed in their subjective temperature preferences (warm-preferred vs. cold-preferred). Participants performed an N-back task in which conditions (1-back and 2-back) differ in their WM load and cognitive demands. Results showed that the preferred, but not the objective temperature predicts WM performance in the more resource-demanding (the 2-back) condition. We propose that subjective preferences are more reliable predictors of performance than objective temperature and that performing under the preferred temperature may counteract “ego-depletion” (i.e., reduced self-control after an exhausting cognitive task) when substantial cognitive control is required. Our findings do not only favor a cognitive approach over the environmental/physical approaches dominating the research on cognition–environment interactions, but they also have important, straightforward practical implications for the design of workplaces.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by research grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) awarded to Lorenza S. Colzato (Vidi Grant: #452-12-001).

References

  1. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252–1265.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Cheema, A., & Patrick, V. M. (2012). Influence of warm versus cool temperatures on consumer choice: A resource depletion account. Journal of Marketing Research, 49, 984–995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Colzato, L. S., Jongkees, B. J., Sellaro, R., & Hommel, B. (2013a). Working memory reloaded: tyrosine repletes updating in the N-back task. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience., 7, 200. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00200.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg, W. P. M., Zmigrod, S., & Hommel, B. (2013b). Action video gaming and cognitive control: Playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition. Psychological Research, 77, 234–239.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Hammel, H. T. (1968). Regulation of internal body temperature. Annual Review of Physiology, 30, 641–710.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Hancock, P. A. (1986). The effect of skill on performance under an environmental stressor. Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, 57, 59–64.Google Scholar
  7. Hancock, P. A., Ross, J., & Szalma, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of performance response under thermal stressors. Human Factors, 49, 851–877.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hancock, P. A., & Vasmatzidis, I. (2003). Effects of heat stress on cognitive performance: The current state of knowledge. International Journal of Hyperthermia, 19, 355–372.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. IJzerman, H., & Semin, G. R. (2009). The thermometer of social relations: Mapping social proximity on temperature. Psychological Science, 20, 1214–1220.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Kane, M. J., Conway, A. R. A., Miura, T. K., & Colflesh, G. J. H. (2007). Working memory, attention control, and the N-back task: A question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33, 615–622.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Kang, Y., Williams, L. E., Clark, M. S., Gray, J. R., & Bargh, J. A. (2011). Physical temperature effects on trust behavior: The role of insula. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6, 507–515.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: A latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41, 49–100.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Pilcher, J., Nadler, E., & Busch, C. (2002). Effects of hot and cold temperature exposure on performance: A meta-analytic review. Ergonomics, 45, 682–698.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Russell, J. A., Weis, A., & Mendelsohn, G. A. (1989). Affect grid: A single-item scale of pleasure and arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 493–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Sellaro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bernhard Hommel
    • 1
  • Meriem Manaï
    • 1
  • Lorenza S. Colzato
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Psychological Research, Leiden Institute for Brain and CognitionLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Cognitive Psychology UnitLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations