Too Cool For Teamwork?

Last Updated Sep 18, 2008 4:28 PM EDT

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Giving new resonance to the term "cold shoulder", research by two Toronto psychologists indicates that a sense of isolation or exclusion can make you feel colder.

In "Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?" Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoffrey Leonardelli from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management detail an experiment where volunteers were divided into two groups. Group A was asked to recall an incident when they'd been socially rejected. Group B was asked to recall an experience of acceptance.

Then, asked to estimate the temperature in the room, those who'd been recalling an isolating experience gave lower temperatures -- indicating that just thinking about being left out makes individuals feel colder.

In another experiment, volunteers played a computer game that was rigged so that some people got a ball tossed to them frequently, while others were left out. Then they were asked to rank the desirability of certain food and drinks. Again, anyone who'd been left out of the game showed a preference for hot food and drinks -- suggesting they were feeling cold, according to the researchers.

"Controlling ambient temperature may thus be a relatively inexpensive and non-intrusive way to restore group cohesiveness and prevent damages of interpersonal frictions," says the research.

Or, to put it plainly, turning up the thermostat may make individuals more comfortable with each other and apt to gel as a team. (No wonder people talk about "hot-housing" innovation.)

It can also be an ice-breaker if you're finding your workmates somewhat aloof: "If the atmosphere is uncomfortable, and there's not much socializing, making a direct reference to temperature may... take away part of that experience of social discomfort," says Zhong.

(Photo by Hannibal Poenaru, CC2.0)