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Study: Thinking about money makes you feel physically colder

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People say they feel physically colder after being reminded of money, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Researchers from Switzerland and Austria found that reminders of money caused sensations of actual physical coldness.

“The present findings allow for important conclusions that add to the literature of both the psychological effects of money and the experience of thermal sensations,” Leonie Reutner of the University of Basel and her colleagues wrote in their study, which was published February 27.

In a study of 40 students, the researchers found that those who had been asked to estimate the number of banknotes in a jar perceived the air in the room as colder than those asked to estimate the number of paper slips.

In a second study of 62 students, participants perceived water as warmer compared to individuals not reminded of money. “In contrast to their colder self-perception, the water seemed warmer to participants in the money condition than to the participants in the control group,” Reutner and her colleagues explained.

The new study adds to a growing body of research on embodiment, which suggests metaphors are more than mere language — they have a physical basis.

“Recent research on embodiment has demonstrated that the metaphor of physical coldness for unsocial, self-centered behavior is more than a simple literal illustration,” the researchers said. “Instead, feelings of social and physical coldness are to some degree interchangeable. This overlap is thought to stem from early childhood experiences of physical warmth (or lack thereof), which are later abstracted to broader concepts of (social) warmth and coldness.”

Research has found that warm temperatures make people more likely to “warm up” to others and cooperate, while cold temperatures make people more “cold-hearted” and less empathetic. Similarly, tasting something sweet has been found to influence people’s thoughts about romance.

“Thus, moving away from the predominant focus on behavioral or cognitive consequences of money thoughts, our findings offer fascinating insights into how money makes people feel,” the researchers concluded.