MAY 29, 2019 07:49 AM PDT

Don't touch the thermostat! Study shows how temperature impacts productivity and cognitive performance.

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

A new study from USC may have upped the stakes of office thermostat battles. The results of a study recently published in PLOS ONE demonstrated that temperature impacts more than just comfort—productivity and cognitive performance are also affected.

The study was led by Tom Chang—associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business—and Agne Kajackaite from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany. In a statement from USC regarding the study, Chang stated: “It’s been documented that women like warmer indoor temperatures than men, but the idea until now has been that it’s a matter of personal preference.” 

The study consisted of 543 students in Berlin, Germany. They were asked to perform math, verbal, and cognitive reflection tasks in a setting where the indoor temperatures were manipulated. The temperature varied between 16.19°C to 32.57°C (61.14–90.63°F). For the math tasks, participants were asked to add five two-digit numbers without the help of a calculator. The verbal tasks consisted of building as many German words as possible with a set of 10 given letters. The cognitive reflection tests were set up as such that the intuitive answer is the wrong answer, which, according to the study, is a test extensively used in psychology literature.

Results showed that women performed better at higher temperatures than low. They attempted to solve and correctly solved more math and verbal tasks at high temperatures versus lower temperatures. Men showed opposite results, performing better at lower temperatures. For the cognitive reflection test, the temperature had no impact on either gender.

One aspect of the study that surprised Chang was the amount of variation within a relatively normal temperature range. He told USC reporters “It’s not like we’re getting to freezing or boiling hot. Even if you go from 60 to 75 degrees, which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”

The authors suggest that to increase productivity in mixed-gender office settings, administrators should consider setting the temperature higher. This study was the first of its kind to explore the link between gender, temperature, and cognitive performance. The results will likely have implications not only for office climate control but also for building design.

Sources: USC, PLOS ONE, USA Today

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
DEC 12, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 12, 2019
Evaluating the Genetic Damage Caused by Cancer Treatments
Now that we know more about the impact of some cancer treatments, they can be applied optimally....
DEC 12, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
DEC 12, 2019
Feds Warn CBD Companies About Health Claims, Demand Response
Two federal agencies are alerting CBD companies that their marketing claims are illegal. The FTC and FDA sent out letters to several CDB companies deemed t...
DEC 12, 2019
Immunology
DEC 12, 2019
Rogue Inflammation Activates Depression During Pregnancy
Unresolved inflammation in a pregnant woman’s body can lead to serious depression during and after pregnancy. A new study investigates the physiologi...
DEC 12, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 12, 2019
Your Annual Reminder: Don't Wash Your Turkey!
Washing any raw poultry before cooking makes sense, right? Wrong! Washing raw poultry—including a massive Thanksgiving turkey—will likely do mo...
DEC 12, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 12, 2019
Vaccine Causes More Polio Cases than Wild Virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that 11 new cases of polio in five African countries including Nigeria, Congo and Angola were caused by a...
DEC 12, 2019
Microbiology
DEC 12, 2019
Some Antacids Appear to Increase the Risk of Gastroenteritis
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs for heartburn relief; they can reduce stomach acid levels....
Loading Comments...