It turns out Mom wasn’t just being fussy when she said “Put on a sweater, you’re making me cold.” Weirdly enough, there might have been some truth to it! A new study from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex found that there is actually something called “temperature contagion” — just looking at someone else shiver is enough to make you colder.
Researchers showed 36 study participants videos of people putting their hands into cold water. Just from watching them, the participants’ body temperatures dropped significantly. Interestingly enough, no temperature change happened when they watched videos of people dipping their hands into warm water.
Lead researcher neuropsychiatrist Dr. Neil Harrison suggests this might be because the cold water videos were more potent, with visible blocks of ice present. But that there is also some scientific evidence that suggest people may just be more sensitive to people appearing cold. He also explained that this reaction is simply an unconscious physiological change that we experience when trying to empathize with others.
“Humans are profoundly social creatures and much of humans’ success results from our ability to work together in complex communities – this would be hard to do if we were not able to rapidly empathize with each other and predict one another’s thoughts, feelings and motivations,” Harrison explained in a press release. Well, it’s good to know Mom wasn’t just nagging!