In the Heat of the Moment: the Influence of Temperature on Risk Taking
C. den Daas1, M. Häfner2, J. de Wit3
1National Institute for Public Health and the Environment Bilthoven, The Netherlands
2Utrecht University, Department of Social Psychology, The Netherlands
3The University of New South Wales, Centre for Social Research in Health, Sydney, Australia
Background: ‘In the heat of the moment’ and ‘keeping a cool head’ are common sayings that suggest a direct effect of temperature on risk behavior. We aim to show that higher temperatures, compared to lower temperatures, generally result in riskier behavior. Methods: In four studies, we tested the effect of temperature on sexual risk decisions and eating behavior, and found support for the predicted relation. We manipulated temperature by giving participants a warm or cold drink (Experiment 1), by manipulating room temperature (Experiments 2 and 4), or by using warm or cold packs (Experiment 3). Findings: Higher temperatures, compared to lower temperatures, resulted in riskier sexual decisions and higher food intake, when confronted with a temptation. Discussion: It thus seems that higher temperatures tip the decision-making scale towards temptations. People make more risky decisions ‘in the heat of the moment’ and ‘cooling down’ could literally help in the defense against temptations.