3 days popular7 days popular1 month popular3 months popular

Warm hands, warm heart: heat helps cooperation

People cooperate with each other more when they’ve been holding hot, as opposed to cold, objects.

This is the finding of a study by and from the University of South Wales presented as part of the poster presentation session at the ’s annual conference today, Thursday 8 May 2014, hosted at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

The Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (IPD) task, designed to measure levels of , was completed by 60 students. Before performing the IPD task, participants were asked to hold either hot or cold objects.

Analysis showed that individuals who held hot objects cooperated significantly more frequently when they had held the hot, as opposed to cold, objects.

Professor Workman said: “There is evidence that, during our evolution, the part of the brain responsible for processing interpersonal warmth came to ‘piggyback’ on top of the part of the brain responsible for physical warmth. So when we say we have ‘warmed to someone’ this is, in a sense, literally true.”

We used prisoner’s dilemma because it is a well-established tool for measuring cooperation, but we suspect that simply by giving someone a sensation of warmth they are more likely to cooperate under other circumstances. Perhaps next time you need to ask someone for a favour it might be worth making them a cup of tea first!”

Full poster paper presentation title: ‘Warm hand, warm heart: warm temperature priming increases cooperation on the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma’.


IPD is a game devised to demonstrate why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It normally involves a scenario of two ‘criminals’ in solitary confinement with no means of communication. The police admit they don’t have enough evidence to convict both of them on the principal charge and plan to sentence both to a year in prison on a lesser charge. They are both offered the opportunity to betray the other, by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent.

The British Psychological Society (BPS)