How Empathy Can Make You Colder, Literally

Just looking at someone who appears to be cold is enough to make us begin feeling cold ourselves, according to a University of Sussex study.

Have you ever been stuck outside on a sweltering, muggy day and had someone tell you to think about icebergs and skiing? They may just be onto something! It’s called temperature contagion.

Thirty six study participants watched videos of people with their hands in visibly warm or cold water, and the researchers measured their body temperature. Watching someone feeling cold didn’t just make the participants feel colder. Their body temperatures actually dropped in response to that imagery on the screen.

The lead researcher on the team – Neuropsychiatrist Dr Neil Harrison – says that this response is likely tied to empathy.

by Becky Striepe