Can How You’re Treated Give You “The Chills”?

Everyone knows the feeling, that feeling of coldness shoots down your back and a quick shiver to shake it off. But is this sensation actually due to the way you are treated? A study conducted at The University of Groningen tested 40 Duke University Students. An experimenter either greeted each participant with a warm welcoming greeting, referred to as an affiliative experimenter, or treated them to a cold, professional greeting, referred to as a task-oriented experimenter. The experimenter maintained this sense of warmness or coldness throughout the entire experiment.


Once the test subject had completed a series of picture identification in which the experimenter would either mimic the test subject’s behavior and act friendly and open with them, or stiff and professional with them, the test subjects were asked to fill out a survey describing how they feel. Some of the questions on the survey to be completed addressed how warm or cold the participant felt. Subjects were asked to rank their feeling on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being extremely cold, 5 being extremely warm.

On average, the people who were treated more coldly reported feeling more cold at the end of the experiment. The people who experienced the task-oriented, non-mimicking experimenter felt the coldest. The people who experienced the affiliative, mimicking experimenter reported feeling the warmest.


I think that there could be some other factors responsible for making people feel the way they feel. Perhaps the room temperature was lower or higher than what the test subject was used to. If the test subject was from a colder climate, they may perceive a 70-degree room as warm while someone from a much warmer climate may call a 70-degree room chilly. Another potential issue with this experiment is that the experimenter may not have applied equal amounts of stiffness or mimicry to all test subjects. Some that were supposed to receive stiff treatment and no mimicry may have been inadvertently mimicked or treated with warmth. Human error is certainly a factor here.

In conclusion, if you are treated with warmth, you are less likely to feel cold and get the “chills”. If the people you are interacting with do not mimic your actions you, are more likely to feel chilly.

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