Physiological and Neurolinguistic Aspects of Temperature

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An annotated bibliography on the perception and cognition of temperature

Previous research can be cited that clearly connects both abstract and metaphorical usage of words with a physical aspect. When describing an action away from the body (close a drawer), it is more difficult to simultaneously perform an action towards the body – suggesting that when an action is contemplated, a simulation is performed in the brain, activating part of the brain which would have been involved in the actual physical action. . When it comes to pain, fMRI studies show that there is a neuroanatomical similarity to how social pain and physical pain are treated – giving metaphors such as SOCIAL PAIN IS PHYSICAL PAIN an embodied grounding. When it comes to spicy (capsaicin-filled) foods, research shows that they in fact activate the same ion channels as noxious heat does – giving a clear bodily connection to the metaphor SPICY FOOD IS HOT.

A hot room will create stronger feelings of hostility than a colder one, according to some authors, while a warm cup or pad will increase people's appreciation of others as ”warm” and friendly.

Can a case be made that ground all temperature metaphors in bodily perception? First there was a bodily perception of temperature, and different concepts then piggy-backed onto this, as people searched for meaning and patterns in the world. Or can metaphors affect the way we perceive the world? If we taught someone that POLKA DOTS IS PLEASURE, STRIPES IS PAIN is a basic metaphor, from which other made-up metaphors stem, will they then report feeling pain when seeing striped fabric? Will the areas in their brains representing pleasure light up when they see polka dots? While it seems difficult to pin down any precise correlation between certain emotions and certain physical reactions, there seems to be broad cultural similarities in which physical reactions people think are connected to specific emotions (the reason for these similarities are not clear, but different theories are presented in.

Sometimes, the desire to see patterns linking abstract thought to embodiment can get a little to enthusiastic.The connection between the female warmth, and between the male and the cold is seen as self evident by many authors – but anthropological data shows that this is not always the case, both in South America and in the yin-yang systems of the Asia the opposite holds true. In the same manner, other intuitive reasonings by researchers about why HEAT and FRESHNESS is connected (Shindo), should be supported by quantitative studies before given too much credence. People living in different climates view temperature in different ways. ”Native peoples” (non-urban) often have a higher level of thyroid hormone (used to regulate the basic metabolic rate as well as temperature sensitivity) than urban populations – giving then physically different perceptions of the same temperatures. Though I have found no articles discussing it, common sense tells us that someone used to living in warmer climates feels the cold in colder climes far more than northerners. No studies have been made, that I have found, that looks upon different cultures from different climates use of temperature metaphors. (Bleck 1989 mentions that heat is impure and coldness pure in South India, giving metaphors such as a ”cold green heart” meaning a good person)

Literary review

The perception of bodily sensations during emotion: A cross-cultural perspective.

Philippot, Pierre & Bernard Rimé 1997 The Perception of Bodily Sensations During Emotion: A Cross-cultural Perspective Polish Journal of Social Psychology, 1997 http://www.ecsa.ucl.ac.be/personnel/philippot/Intercult_Polish.pdf

This article addresses, by a literary overview of previous research, the question of whether there is any cross-cultural similarities or marked differences in physiological reactions to specific emotions. The author finds that the research carried out so far shows no such pattern: the physiological reactions to emotions vary considerably from study to study. Either this is because there are no unique characteristics in physiological reactions to different emotions (anger and sadness, for instance) or the tests and testing environment have not been good enough. The authors note, though, that there is research supporting patterns in cultural differences and similarities when it comes to reported physiological reactions (i.e when the subjects are asked how they react to emotion, rather than how they actually react). There seems to be, at some level, social schemas that inform us how anger, fear, joy etc. are physiologically felt – schemas that we employ (end enforce) by using them when talking about these feelings. The authors then present two studies in which they examined what the differences in reported physiological reactions depended on – they show that 6% (in the first study) and 8% (in the second study) depend on cultural variation, while 27% and 32% depend on which emotion was being evaluated. There interpretation of this was that while cultural differences play a definite part in how we view the physiological reactions to emotion, the cross-cultural similarities are far more important. The authors believe that future studies will show that the cultural schemas have an even more important role to play than they have hitherto been able to show. They discuss three different origins for these social schemas, which I here label the Prototype theory, the Typical Action theory and the Metaphor theory. The Prototype theory assumes that there is in fact a universal physiological difference between emotions (even though no one has been able to show this clearly so far), and that there is a physiological prototype based on extremely intense experiences of the emotion that is the basis for the social schema. This extremely intense prototypical emotion/physical reaction might be difficult to reproduce in laboratory settings. The Typical Action theory bases the physiological reactions ascribed in the social schema on the physiological bodily reactions to a typical action associated with the emotion. For fear, it would be running away – the bodily state that one has while running would thus be the basis for the fear social schema. The Metaphor theory assumes that there is a semantic association between, for instance, warmth and positive feeling, and there is an association between the the emotion joy and physical feeling. Joy is thereby associated with warmth, possibly strengthened by the fact that joy might indicate human closeness, which produces warmth. There is, the authors note, no reason to think that the three theories aren't all involved in the construction of the social schema.


Hot temperatures, Hostile affect, Hostile Cognition and Arousal: Tests of a General Model of Affective Aggression.

Anderson, Craig A.; William, E. Deuser; Kristina, M. De Neve, 1994 Hot Temperatures, Hostile Affect, Hostile Cognition, and Arousal: Tests of a General Model of Affective Aggression, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 434-448 http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/21/5/434

Does an increase in temperature cause an effect in aggression? This is a widely held belief that researchers have been attempting to test for some time now. The main focus of the article is on the usefulness of a proposed ”integrated theory of affective aggression” (see figure 1). The theory is that an increase in temperature can affect aggression in three ways: by causing ”hostile cognition”, an increase in ”(mood) state hostility” or an increase in ”general arousal”. ”Hostile cognition” means how hostile or aggressive one considers oneself to be in general. ”State hostility” is a measure of how hostile one feels at a given point in time. ”General arousal” means how emotionally active one feels – the idea is that if one is agitated, one will find a source to blame this one, which might lead to hostility. The results of the experiments showed that increased temperature may influence aggression (more specifically hostility and anger) through all three routes. At the same time the study found that perceived general arousal was lowered when temperature increased, and that temperature increases did not increase a general negative feelings, but specifically those involving aggression. The authors suggest that the effects of uncomfortably cold temperatures need to be investigated as well. The study does not show that the same kind of aggression increase would not be achieved with other kinds of physically negative input, such as pain – in other words, that people in physical distress, regardless of whether it is thermal in nature, are more hostile and angrier.


Some Like it Hot: Spicing up Ion Channels

Clapham, David E. 1997 Some like it hot: spicing up ion channels Nature 389, 783-784 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v389/n6653/pdf/389783a0.pdf

Capsaicin - the substance that make jalapeno peppers "hot" - and painful heat both activate sensory nerve fibres through the same kind of ion channel (known as vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1)). This explains why our mouths feel "hot" when we eat chilli peppers. Possibly, the ion channel was originally designed for detecting dangerous heat, and the capsaicin response was an accident, capitalized on by plants wanting to avoid getting eaten.

This article gives a plausible reason for the "metaphorical" connection between spiciness and heat. Unlike noxious heat, spicy things can also have positive effects - they can be delicious and spicy. Could this be the basis for metaphors such as "this was a hot piece of news" (meaning interesting), "he looked really hot" (meaning good, sexy) where danger/intensity and positivity is coupled?


Impaired Nociception and Pain Sensation in Mice Lacking the Capsaicin Receptor

Caterina, M. J. & A. Leffler& A. B. Malmberg, G & W. J. Martin & J. Trafton & K. R. Petersen-Zeitz & M. Koltzenburg, & A. I. Basbaum, & D. Julius 2000 Impaired Nociception and Pain Sensation in Mice Lacking the Capsaicin Receptor Science 14 Vol. 288. no. 5464, pp. 306 - 313 http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/sci%3B288/5464/306.pdf

This article discusses an experiment in which mice with the VR1 receptor (studied in the Some Like It Hot-article) removed were compared with normal mice. The findings strengthen the theory that both noxious heat and spiciness are handled largely by this channel.

Oregano, Thyme and Clove-derived Flavors and Skin Sensitizers Activate Specific TRP Channels

Xu, Haoxing & Markus Delling & Janice C & David E Clapham 2006 Oregano, thyme and clove-derived flavors and skin sensitizers activate specific TRP channels VOLUME 9, NUMBER 5, MAY 2006 NATURE NEUROSCIENCE http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v9/n5/pdf/nn1692.pdf

Carvacrol, eugenol and thymol are major components of plants such as oregano, savory, clove and thyme. When applied to the tongue, these flavors elicit a warm sensation - this article shows why, on a molecular chemical level - this happens.

It could potentially be interesting, to see if how these spices are seen in humoral systems around the world.


Thyroidism

Batchelder,Tim 2003 Hypothyroidism, temperature regulation, and ethnoscience - Medical Anthropology Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, July http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0ISW/is_2003_July/ai_104259134/

The factors enabling rapid physiological adaptations to outdoor activity and temperature changes are adjustments in basal metabolic rate, circulation and thyroid production.

Thyroid hormone is a hormone essential for controlling body temperature and metabolism. The authors theorize that modern western people have largely lost the ability to do the rapid adaptions to temperature changes - as many as 40% of people in the US may not be able to make enough thyroid hormone which can lead to heart problems, fatigue, memory problems, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, hair loss and dry skin.

Indigenous people of northern latitudes have higher BMRs than tropical people as an adaptation to the colder climates. Thyroid function is strongly shaped by environmental factors such as changes in temperature and nutrition. The increased thyroid hormone levels increase during winter may in turn be increasing basal metabolism in response to severe cold and short day lengths of the arctic winter. In general, indigenous groups appear to have a greater capacity for elevating BMR in response to severe cold. An outdoor lifestyle seems protective against hypothyroidism. One reason may be exposure to sunlight. Morning light advances physical activity, hormone secretion, urine output, body temperature, and stimulates the thyroid to burn body fat, while evening light makes the same events occur later. In industrial societies children experience growth spurts during the spring as their metabolism speeds up and thyroid hormones peak.

The authors mention several natural products and remedies that can improve the thyroid balance - it might be interesting to check how they relate to the Humoral Classification systems of various regions. In China, hyperthyroidism is treated by herbs and considered a "yang deficiency" disease (i.e it is a "cold" disease).


Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth

Williams, Lawrence E & John A Bargh 2004 Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth Science, 322 (5901), 606-607 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/322/5901/606

One of the most powerful traits in social judgement is whether a person is Cold or Warm. Recent findings that the insula is involved in the processing of both physical temperature and interpersonal trust (warmth) information led the authors to form the hypothesis that an experience of physical warmth or coldness would affect feelings of interpersonal trust (warmth). The experiments showed that people who had briefly held a cup of hot/iced coffee or a hot/cold pad were more likely to judge a target person as having a Warm/Cold personality and More likely/Less likely to choose a gift for a friend rather than for themselves.

Is this a culturally bound phenomenon? In Southern India, where heat is connected with impurity and coldness with purity, generosity - would the result be the same?

Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold

Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli 2008 Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold? Psychological Science Volume 19 Issue 9, Pages 838 - 842 http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/geoffrey.leonardelli/inpressPS.pdf

Based on the Williams and Bargh article, Cheng and Leonardelli decided to test if feelings of social exclusion (a recalled memory as well as being left out of a ball tossing game in present time) would lead subjects to judge room temperature to be lower than those who had not felt the social rejection. This turned out to be true. Very interesting data on the possible BODY – COGNITION connection. But yet again: In Southern India, where heat is connected with impurity and coldness with purity, generosity - would the result be the same?

Warmth and competence as universal dimensions of social perception: the stereotype content model and the bias map

Cuddy, A J C, Fiske, S T, Glick P Warmth and competence as universal dimensions of social perception: the stereotype content model and the bias map. In press at MP Zanna's Advances in Experimental Social Psychology www.people.hbs.edu/esweeny/Cuddy_Fiske_Glick_Advances.pdf

The authors suggest that there are two fundamental, universal dimensions that are used to socially differentiate groups and individuals. The warmth dimension — comprising such traits as morality, trustworthiness, sincerity, kindness, and friendliness —assesses the other's perceived intent in the social context. The competence dimension — comprising such traits as efficacy, skill, creativity, confidence, and intelligence — relates to perceived capability to enact intent. The aim of the paper is to present an integrative review of the overwhelming evidence of the universality of these two dimensions in social perception, and also to provide a common framework for identifying the origins and predicting the social consequences of warmth and competence judgments. The authors propose that people viewed as competitors are judged as lacking warmth, whereas people viewed as allies are judged as warm; people viewed as high status are judged as competent, whereas people viewed as low status are judged as incompetent. The contents of the three psychological components of bias – cognitions (stereotypes), affect (emotional prejudices), and behavior (discrimination) – operate in synchrony with one another

Stereotype Content Model discusses what stereotypes normally contain and why. Although specific group stereotypes have some idiosyncratic content (e.g., the notion that Black people are “rhythmic”), underlying such beliefs are more general themes organized along warmth and competence dimensions. According to the SCM, the origins of perceived warmth and competence lie in social structural variables, namely competition and status, such that non-competitive others are judged to be warm, whereas competitive others are not; and high status others are judged to be competent, whereas low status others are not. The SCM proposes that the four combinations of high vs. low warmth and competence judgments elicit four unique emotional responses: admiration, contempt, envy, and pity. Specifically, groups stereotyped as warm and competent (e.g., in-groups) – elicit admiration and pride. Groups stereotyped as incompetent and cold (e.g., homeless people) elicit contempt and disgust. Groups stereotyped as competent but not warm (e.g., Asians) elicit envy. Groups stereotyped as warm but not competent (e.g., elderly people) elicit pity. These proposals have been supported using both correlational and experimental methods, as well as cross-cultur comparisons. The four combinations of high vs. low warmth and competence elicit four unique patterns of behavioral responses: active facilitation (e.g., helping), active harm (e.g., harassing), passive facilitation (e.g., convenient cooperation), and passive harm (e.g., neglecting).

When the authors speak of Warm, they also include words and judgments such as nice, friendly, and sincere, and Competence stands for such things as confident, skillful, able etc. There is no reflections on why the words Warm and Cold are used instead of, say, Communicative and Distancing – indeed, many similar theories use other words than Warm and Cold. While it is implicitly suggested that the words Warm and Cold are central in English, there is regrettably no information on which terms are used in other cultures, even though the research is cross-cultural. The authors have, in my opinion, showed a cross-cultural consistency in that people have two axis that they use to label people with. It is not clear that temperature words are used in all cultures for this. Possibly one could contact the author to get their data?

Attentional mechanisms linking rejection to hostile reactivity: the role of “hot” versus “cool” focus

Ayduk O; Mischel W; Downey G 2002 Attentional Mechanisms Linking Rejection to Hostile Reactivity: The Role of “Hot” Versus “Cool” Focus Psychological Science, Volume 13, Number 5, September 2002 , pp. 443-448(6) http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpl/psci/2002/00000013/00000005/art00478

The article is about how a ”cooling mental focus” (distancing oneself emotionally) and ”hot mental focus” (being agitated) interact with different situations. The use of cool and hot in this article is merely metaphorical – there is no speculation about a connection between the words, or between hot and cold states, and cognition. The words could have been replaced by ”calm” and ”angry”, or something similar. The prevalent use of the terms Hot and Cold show how the metaphors are used in English, of course, denoting calmness and hostility – but that is the only thing that we can get from the article.


Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion

Naomi I. Eisenberger, Matthew D. Lieberman, Kipling D. Williams 2003 Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion Science 10 October 2003:Vol. 302. no. 5643, pp. 290 - 292 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/302/5643/290

In summary, a pattern of activations very similar to those found in studies of physical pain emerged during social exclusion, providing evidence that the experience and regulation of social and physical pain share a common neuroanatomical basis. Understanding the underlying commonalities between physical and social pain unearths new perspectives on issues such as why physical and social pain are affected similarly by both social support and neurochemical interventions (2, 3, 25), and why it “hurts” to lose someone we love (1).

This is interesting because, taken together with information on how the body reacts to capsaicin and heat in the same way, and how cold temperature begets hostility, and social exclusion makes one feel physically cold, it gives further credence to an neural/embodied theory of metaphorical meaning.


Grounding Language in Action

Glenberg, Arthur M. & Kaschak, Michael P. 2002 Grounding language in action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Vol 9(3), Sep 2002, pp. 558-565 http://pbr.psychonomic-journals.org/content/9/3/558.full.pdf+html

The authors report an effect called the Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE), which shows that when processing a sentence involving movement in one direction, it is more difficult to simultaneously move in the opposite direction. It is assumed that real bodily action is at the root of meaning conveyed by language. This lends yet further support for the connection between language and embodiment.

-Susanne Vejdemo, 2010

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