What is the temperature like at your workplace? If you feel too hot or too cold, chances are you are less likely to be productive, according to new research from Leiden University in the Netherlands.
It is common knowledge that temperature can affect our mood. Many of us are happier in the sunshine, while others prefer colder weather. But how does environmental temperature impact our cognitive abilities?
According to the research team, including Leiden University psychologists Lorenza Colzato and Roberta Sellaro, past studies have suggested that cooler environments boost cognitive performance when carrying our complex thinking tasks.
Other research, including a study from the Kessler Foundation in 2012, indicates that warmer temperatures may boost cognitive performance.
But the Leiden University team notes that there is very limited research on whether temperature affects working memory, which is responsible for holding and manipulating information over short periods of time. We use our working memory for simple, everyday tasks, such as remembering a telephone number or giving directions.
To investigate further, the research team conducted a series of tests on two groups of participants, who were placed in their groups dependent on the temperature they preferred (cool or warm).
All subjects were required to carry out a working memory task in three different environments set at different temperatures: 25 °C (77 Fahrenheit), 15 °C (59 Fahrenheit) and 20 °C (68 Fahrenheit).
The task involved viewing different letters on a computer screen. Each letter would appear one after the other, and participants had to signal whether each letter that appeared was the same as one they had seen two letters previously.
Working in preferred temperature 'boosts cognitive performance'
The study findings, recently published in the journal Psychological Research, revealed that when participants performed the task in an environment set to their preferred temperature, they performed better.
The investigators hypothesize that carrying out tasks in a preferred temperature may counteract "ego-depletion" - reduction of self-control after completing an exhausting cognitive task - when significant cognitive control is required.
Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:
"The results confirm the idea that temperature influences cognitive ability. Working in one's ideal temperature can promote efficiency and productivity.
Our findings do not only favor a cognitive approach over the environmental/physical approaches dominating the research on cognition-environment interactions, but they also have important straightforward, practical implications for the design of workplaces."
With the help of Kermit and Miss Piggy, the team explains their findings further in the video below:
Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that green tea may boost our working memory, while other research revealed the discovery of a drug that could restore working memory for older adults.
Written by Honor Whiteman