Here in Toronto, we’ve been dealing with some very hot temperatures lately. While I’ve heard my share of people complaining about the heat, I’ve also heard my share of people expressing gratitude for the beautiful weather.
So, I thought about what life might be like if the weather were hot throughout the entire year. I remember reading about a study which said that hot cities had higher crime rates. So, I Googled the phrase, “Heat and Aggression.” What came up were articles supporting the Heat Hypothesis: that hot temperatures increase aggressive motivations, and in some cases, aggressive behaviours.
Heat and Aggression
Craig Anderson, a psychologist studying the relationship between heat and aggression, has written extensively on this topic. He has used data from field studies and data from laboratory settings.
In field studies, crime rates from hotter, southern cities in the United States were compared with crime rates of northern US cities. Other types of field studies compare the rates of aggression-related crime within one city, but at different times of the year. In both cases, cities that reported higher temperatures (consistently above 90-degrees Fahrenheit or 32-degrees Celsius) had higher rates of spousal battering, assault rates, and batters being hit by pitchers. This last example is interesting: Anderson’s research has found that batters are more likely to be hit by a pitch on really hot days than on cooler days.
Research conducted in laboratory settings looked at participants’ scores on measures of attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions when temperatures in the lab are very high, and compare it with the results of participants in really cool (or normal) temperature settings. These studies show that people tend to be more “cranky” and interpret things more negatively when they are uncomfortably warm.
So, the next time you are feeling cranky, anxious, or frustrated, pay attention to the temperature around you. It’s likely that your attitudes and emotions are being influenced by your environment. If so, take a break, do something to cool you off, and remind yourself that the heat is outside your control.
Hoping your week is filled with much knowledge, growth, and comfortable temperatures.
(Dr. Richard Amaral is a registered psychologist with a private practice Toronto and Markham, Ontario)