In the Heat of the Moment: the Influence of Temperature on Risk Taking

  • C. den Daas
  • M. Häfner
  • J. de Wit


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.
Oral presentations