Students, have you ever felt that you perform better in school during the colder days of the year? Research shows that people make better decision-making skills and perform better cognitively in cooler environments compared to hotter environments. This may sound silly and weird, but our brain (which is what we use to think with) is an organ and it needs certain things to work most efficiently. Brains need energy to function properly and it uses glucose as an energy source.
An important task of the body is temperature regulation. Peoples’ bodies use energy to maintain a healthy internal temperature. This is achieved through sweating, shivering, and getting goose bumps.
Warm temperatures are more likely to deplete peoples’ resources for energy. It is proposed that because our bodies need to use more glucose in warmer areas to function properly, brains cannot function to their full capacity due to lack of glucose for cognitive functioning.
Two researchers form UVA wanted to test this theory out. They gathered sales data for multiple types of lottery games in St. Louis County for a year and then examined the differences in sales in relation to the temperature each day. Sales for scratch tickets fell by almost $600 with every one degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature. They then made two experiments. In one lab study, participants were asked to proofread an article while they were in either a warm or cool room. Participants that were in warm rooms performed significantly worse than those in cool rooms. In a second study, participants were asked to choose between two cell phone plans in either a warm or cool room. One plan looked better, but was actually more expensive and the wrong choice. This task was harder than the first experiment, but it still showed the ability of whether people can or cannot make good cognitive decisions in hotter areas compared to cooler areas. Participants in the cool room made the correct decision more than half of the time. Participants in the warmer room made the correct decision only a quarter of the time.
Warmer temperatures seem to make people more likely to rely on easy patterns of decision-making, which in turn lead to inferior choices and more decisions. While there it could have been chance that the smarter people were put in a cooler room, this is doubtful because two experiments give evidence and support that people do perform worse cognitively in warmer areas. I have one question concerning the experiment. If glucose is needed for cognitive thinking, then what people ate before the study is important for accurate results. This is a third variable that needs to be taken into account.