Here’s Why the Summer Heat Makes People Grumpy

Image Credit: Pixabay

There are summer people and winter people – and, fine, there are also the wishy-washy folks who pick spring or fall as a favorite season – but it turns out that, scientifically, we’re all happier when we’re not melting.

I mean, duh – right?

Well, everything in science needs to have evidence, so researchers Liuba Y. Belkin and Maryam Kouchaki, from Lehigh and Northwestern Universities, conducted three experiments that tested the effects of being uncomfortably hot on human behavior. Their findings, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, claim that people are cranky, uncooperative, and less likely to help others when they’re dealing with their own discomfort.


They began with data from a “secret shopper” experiment in Russia, one that was conducted when the country was experiencing a “mega-heatwave” back in 2010, and found that the shoppers’ experiences and the store employees ratings decreased significantly during the stifling heat.

Employees, for example, were 59% less likely to ask customers if they needed help, to make suggestions, volunteer assistance, or show signs of active listening. They didn’t seem to struggle with the non-customer related portions of their duties, either – only interacting pleasantly was a problem.


Then they recruited 160 people to take an online trivia quiz, and instructed half of the participants to imagine themselves in an uncomfortably warm setting. Afterward, all of the participants were asked to complete a short survey about their experience.

The results found that people who had been instructed to imagine themselves being hot were less likely to agree to take the survey at all, and when they did, they reported feeling tired and less happy than the people who weren’t instructed on their environment at all.

Lastly, Belkin recruited 73 of her students and taught the same class twice – once in a stuffy 80 degree F room and once with the air conditioner running. At the end, the students completed a 100 question survey they were told supported a nonprofit dedicated to helping underprivileged children.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Students who took the course in the hot room answered fewer of the survey questions, possibly because they wanted out of the stuffy space sooner. As Belkin pointed out, the heat affected their behavior.

“The point of our study is that ambient temperature affects individual states that shape emotional and behavioral reactions, so people help less in an uncomfortable environment, whatever the reason they come up with to justify why they cannot do certain things.”

They believe their findings apply to not only students who need a comfortably environment to learn, but to employees who require a temperate workplace in order to be the most efficient at their jobs.

So, better figure out the best temperature for everyone, managers of the world. If you want the best from people day in and day out, they’re going to have to be thinking of something other than when they’ll be able to escape.