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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Personality, Are You a Warm or Cold Person?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 28th 2012

Personality, Are You a Warm or Cold Person?Dr. John Bargh, clinical psychologist, has conducted ongoing research on the relationship between personality and warmth. There are many metahphors that represent this connection. For example, people are commonly referred to as being "warm," or "cold." How often have you heard someone saying, "She gave me the cold shoulder." I am sure that everyone, at one time or another has "felt left out in the cold." We have a neighbor who is outgoing and has a wonderful sense of humor. She is often referred to as being "hot stuff," indicating her outrageous and hysterical sense of humor that makes all of us laugh. Then, there is the story of someone's "cold heart" being melted by someone else's warmth.

Dr. Bargh's research has demonstrated that these metaphors accurately portray what we feel, how we act and how we can alter those feelings. For example, in one experiment students were evenly divided between those who were given a warm cup of coffee vs. those who were handed a cup of iced coffee. All of them were given a description of a stranger and were asked to evaluate him. Sure enough, those with the warm cups rated the stranger as warm as opposed to those with iced coffee who rated the same stranger as cold. Many variations of this experiment and others have all demonstrated the relationship between warmth and social relationships. In cases where someone was viewed as cold, behavior toward that person was equally cold - all based on the presence of something hot or cold. This supports the the old saying, "Warm hands, warm heart."

Now, there is further evidence that doing such things as taking a hot bath or shower, eating a hot meal, and having hot soup all influence the way we see ourselves and others.

It is important to note that all of this is unconscious, something Bargh has also studied for many years. In these experiments, all participants were unaware of the purpose of the study or of the role of the hot or cold substances.

How can you benefit from all of this? For one thing, taking a hot bath or shower is not only comforting but influences how you feel about others and yourself, which then influences how you act later in the day. Hot soup on a cold day really is warming in more ways than one!

Take that hot bath, it will help you feel less lonely and behave more warmly toward your fellow human beings. You will be more likely to give friends and strangers a warm, rather than chilly, reception the next time you see them.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Studying - - Mar 8th 2012

Allan I have a question not only pertaining to your article but to so many psychological behaviors and habits. Is it possible for someone to intentionally and literally behave outside of known parameters?

good research - - Feb 28th 2012

quite interesting research :)

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