Women Think Better in Warmer Rooms, Study Suggests

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Women think better in warmer rooms, while men work better in lower temperatures, concluded on study. Getty Images

Women think better in warmer rooms, while men work better in lower temperatures. That's according to scientists.

The findings should make employees and educational institutions consider raising room temperatures to boost productivity, the authors of the study, published in the journal Plos One, said.

Researchers recruited 542 students in Berlin to take math, cognition and verbal tests in a room kept at a chilly 61.14 F, and another at a hot 90.63 F. Of the total, 40 percent of the participants were female.

The authors wrote that the women performed better on math and verbal tests in the warmer room, while the reverse was true for men. The temperature, however, didn't seem to change the results of the cognitive tests for men or women.

"Our findings suggest that gender-mixed workplaces may be able to increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards," the authors wrote.

Study co-author Agne Kajackaite, head of the Ethics and Behavioral Economics research group at WZB Berlin Social Science Center, told Newsweek: "There have been many studies showing that women prefer higher indoor temperatures than men. However, nobody looked at the effect of these differences in comfort on performance.

"We show that the battle for the thermostat is not just about the comfort. It is much more—in our experiment, women's cognitive functioning is the best at high temperatures, whereas men's [is] at low temperatures. Importantly, the positive effect of increased temperatures on women's performance is much stronger than the negative effect on men."

Kajackaite continued: "This is just the first study looking at the effects of temperature on cognitive performance by gender. We ran the experiment with a homogeneous sample at a German university. More research looking at different groups—age, educational background, country—and different cognitive tasks is needed."

Wouter Van Marken Lichtenbelt, a professor of ecological energetics and health at Maastricht University who has also published research on body temperature, told Newsweek that the study was written as if men had an opposite response to that of women, but "there is not one statistically significant effect observed in the data of the men."

Wei Luo, a Ph.D. student at Maastricht University working with van Marken Lichtenbelt, said the methods were limited, because there was a fixed order of the different tests, meaning the participants may have become tired and that could explain why only the later tests showed a significant temperature effect. "This makes comparison between tests difficult," said LuoHe.

Information about the participants' clothing and how long the habituation period lasted, which may have also influenced the results, were missing from the paper, van Marken Lichtenbelt said.

Van Marken Lichtenbelt agreed that the results indicated offices would be more productive if ambient temperatures were taken into consideration, arguing a similar approach could be taken in exam rooms.

A 2015 study by Lichtenbelt published in the journalBuilding Research & Information found that exposures to temperatures outside our comfort zone could affect conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Women Think Better in Warmer Rooms, Study Suggests | Health