Metaphors such as icy stare depict social exclusion using cold-related concepts; they are not to be taken literally and certainly do not imply reduced temperature. Two experiments, however, revealed that social exclusion literally feels cold. Experiment 1 found that participants who recalled a social exclusion experience gave lower estimates of room temperature than did participants who recalled an inclusion experience. In Experiment 2, social exclusion was directly induced through an on-line virtual interaction, and participants who were excluded reported greater desire for warm food and drink than did participants who were included. These findings are consistent with the embodied view of cognition and support the notion that social perception involves physical and perceptual content. The psychological experience of coldness not only aids understanding of social interaction, but also is an integral part of the experience of social exclusion.More detail on the two experiments:
In one, they split 65 students into two groups, instructing those in one to recall a time when they felt socially rejected, and those in the other to summon a memory of social acceptance.
Many of the students were recent immigrants and had fresh memories of being isolated in the dorms, left behind while roommates went out, Dr. Zhong said.
The researchers then had each of the participants estimate the temperature in the lab room. The students who had recalled being excluded estimated the temperature to be, on average, 5 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the others.
In the second experiment, the researchers had 52 students come into the lab and play a computer game, one at a time. The students “threw” a ball back and forth with three other figures on the computer screen that — so the participants thought — represented other students playing from remote locations.
In fact a computer program was running the game, and it excluded half the study participants, throwing them the virtual ball a couple of times in the beginning, then ignoring them altogether. The other group of students in the study were included in the virtual game of catch.
After playing the game, the participants in this study then rated their preferences for a variety of foods and drinks, including hot soup, coffee, an apple and crackers. Those who had been isolated in the computer game showed a strong preference for the soup and coffee over the other items; the included students had no such preference.