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Keep it cool: temperature priming effect on cognitive control

Abstract

The effect of physical temperature on cognition and behavior has been the focus of extensive research in recent years, demonstrating that embodied concepts are grounded in, and shaped by, sensorimotor physical experiences. Nevertheless, less is known about how experienced and perceived temperatures affect cognitive control, one of humans core executive functions. In the present work, we primed participants with cool versus warm temperature using a between participants manipulation of physical touch experience (Experiment 1), and a within participants manipulation of seeing landscape views associated with cool vs. warm temperatures (Experiment 2). In both experiments, cool compared to warm temperatures lead to improved performance on an anti-saccade task, an established cognitive control measure. Implications are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Two participants in the cool priming condition were excluded from this analysis for showing extremely poor performance (40 and 77 % error rates) which was more than three standard-deviations away from the mean (Z values were +3.16 and +6.91, respectively, as compared to a range of −.89 to +1.85 in the rest of the group, representing 0–27 % error rates). Including these participants the Temperature effect was no longer significant (F < 1.00). Nevertheless, since the assumptions of the ANOVA were not met when including these participants we performed a Kruskal–Wallis median test which revealed highly significant differences between conditions, X 2(2) = 10.04, p < .01, indicating the same pattern of results revealed in the previous reported ANOVA. Specifically, while in the cold condition the performance of 16 out of 30 participants were lower the median (and 14 out of 30 were equal or above), in the neutral and the warm conditions there were only 9 out of 29 and 4 out of 28 participants, respectively.

  2. 2.

    Two participants were excluded from this analysis for showing extremely poor performance in the first block of the anti-saccade task (which for both of them involved the cool condition). Specifically, their error rates (48 and 65 %) was more than three standard-deviations away from the mean (Z = +4.18 and +5.95, as compared to a range of −.81 to +1.56 in the rest of the group, representing 0–23 % error rates). Including these participants the Temperature effect was no longer significant (F < 1.00). Nevertheless, since the assumptions of the ANOVA were not met when including these participants we performed a Friedman ANOVA by ranks which revealed highly significant differences between conditions, ANOVA X 2(2, n = 28) = 10.79, p < .005, indicating the same pattern of results revealed in the previous reported ANOVA. Specifically, the sum of ranks in the cold condition (67.5) was higher than in the neutral (44.5) and in the warm (56) conditions.

  3. 3.

    A mixed model design, including the order participants perform the three temperature conditions as a between participants variable, and the temperature conditions as a within participants variable, received an enlarged main effect for temperature, F(2,40) = 9.85, p < .001, η 2 p  = .33, while both the order and the interaction with order were not significant (both F < 1, n.s.).

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Sharon Chavoinik, Goldi Feuerstein and Maya Poller for their assistance with data collection. Eliran Halali gratefully acknowledges support from the Fulbright program of the United States- Israel Educational foundation and the ISEF foundation.

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Correspondence to Eliran Halali or Idit Shalev.

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Halali, E., Meiran, N. & Shalev, I. Keep it cool: temperature priming effect on cognitive control. Psychological Research 81, 343–354 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-016-0753-6

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Keywords

  • Stimulus Onset Asynchrony
  • Cognitive Control
  • Warm Temperature
  • Stimulus Onset Asynchrony Condition
  • Pleasant Stimulus