Ice Queen

Just about every song I can think about that deals with isolation and rejection has lyrics that describe how cold that feeling is. Cue 1970’s megaband Foreigner….”You’re as cold as ice. You’re willing to sacrifice our love….” 

Yeah I hate that song as well. But the metaphor of rejection and temperature crops up again and again in culture. Cold shoulder, icy stare, frosty reception etc.. etc..

Now Cheng-Bo Zeng and colleagues have demonstrated experimentally in a forthcoming publication in Psychological Science that individuals who are asked to recall previous episodes when they were socially rejected, judge the room temperature to be on average 6 degrees colder than individuals asked to remember some socially inclusive event.

Then they induced social exclusion in a virtual interactive game on a computer and found that participants reported a greater desirability for warm food and drinks.

This area of research is know as embodied cognition where thought processes have tangible and predictable consequences on bodily responses and perception. In this case, being rejected is a cold experience.

Cool eh?


Filed under Research

5 responses to “Ice Queen

  1. Katie

    I know it’s a jump, but is this related at all to people dying from ‘grief’ or ‘shock’? I’ve never known if that was just a lay explanation or if it was used medically. I’ve assumed that something sudden like septicemia requires a physical infection or injury – that it can’t just happen, so to speak?

    Either way, very cool study! But not I have Foreigner stuck in my head…

  2. brucehood

    Yes, it can really happen as simply as that. The human body is constantly fighting off infection and disease. There is a well-established link between psychological stress and the immune system which can be compromised by negative life events. So to some extent the healthy mind – healthy body mantra is true.

  3. I also now have Foreigner stuck in my head.

    I am very intrigued by this experiment. I wonder if they have drawn a correlation between this cold sense of rejection and the thermography studies indicating that the human body increases in temperature in mating situations.

    There was a study done at one point when women were filmed at night clubs with an infrared camera and it was discovered that a woman’s body temperature increases dramatically when she is aroused. We actually light up like a bonfire, head to toe.

    Since arousal and successful social interaction, at least in the mate seeking arena, would result in an overall warm sense, a cold sense accompanying rejection makes a lot of sense.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to use thermal imaging in rejection scenarios to see if the body actually gets colder?

  4. brucehood

    Now that is an interesting question. Is it the perception of cold or is there actually a re-adjustment of the body temperature. Not bad for a lawyer!

  5. Thanks! It’s good to know my specialization hasn’t turned me into a one trick pony. 😉

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