Does heat make you aggressive? Here’s What Science Says – Knowing SWR

High temperatures increase emotions in many people. First, everyone is waiting for summer – and when it finally arrives, many valves seem to have blown.

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Does heat really make us more aggressive?

Several studies have proven that a heat wave leads to more aggression and crime. So there is a measurable relationship between ambient temperature and aggressiveness. The hotter the environment, the hotter the rage. Even crime increases on hot days. The police and emergency rooms feel this, because when the weather is hot, the number of operations usually increases: sexual crimes and more violent crimes are committed during a heat wave – this was proved by the American psychologist Craig Anderson.

The higher the temperatures, the hotter the spirits: There is more aggression and crime during a heat wave.


IMAGO / Andreas Haas

On the other hand, police are more likely to carry a gun when it’s hot, Dutch researchers have shown. In simulated crisis situations and a pleasant temperature of 21 degrees, 60 percent of officers took up arms. If the temperature was significantly higher at 27 degrees, 85 percent of police officers would have drawn their guns.

And in the 1960s there was a much-watched experiment—two groups of students were allowed to punish each other after criticism—with small electric shocks. The hotter the temperature in the test chamber, the more frequent the electric shocks.

But even if the tendency to aggressive behavior increases statistically, it is not possible to generalize. After all, everyone is different. W: There are people who remain calm even in the heat.

Record temperatures in Toulouse, due to heat wave Children play in water fountains while in Toulouse.  (Photo: IMAGO, IMAGO / NurPhoto)

During a heat wave, it’s important to remain “calm” – both mentally and physically.


IMAGO / NurPhoto

Why does heat make you aggressive?

From a temperature of 28 or 29 degrees Celsius, we are no longer in our comfort zone; For Central Europe, this degree is usually from 22 to 25 degrees. Anything above that is perceived as being too warm and then starts putting pressure on the body. Blood vessels dilate, the heart beats faster, and the hormone vasopressin is secreted more frequently. Vasopressin works to keep fluids in the body. Unfortunately, as a side effect, this hormone increases people’s aggressiveness. In general, when it’s hot, our entire sympathetic nervous system goes into alert mode. All of this makes us feel more uncomfortable and irritable than we would at lower temperatures.

There are other explanations for the increased aggressiveness when it is hot: when the temperature is high, more than average numbers stay outdoors, often until late at night, and they often consume alcohol. Here, too, there is a high probability of conflict.

A restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo: IMAGO, IMAGO / Dean Pictures)

Aggression can also increase when the weather is hot because people often consume alcohol as well.


Images IMAGO / Religion

What does heat do to us?

Unfortunately, this not only excites our best qualities, but it also makes us selfish and lazy in thinking. But first things first: heat obviously makes us less useful. Studies have proven this. The reason is that our body switches to efficiency mode due to the cumbersome temperature equation. That is, one has a strong desire to take care of one’s own needs first.

When it’s hot, our brain has less energy available for thinking. Scientists from the USA have discovered that high temperatures limit our ability to think. In an experiment with students, a group that had to sit in a heated, non-air-conditioned room took 13 percent more time to complete tasks than their classmates in the air-conditioned room. The explanation is that when the temperature is high, our brain has to expend more energy to keep the body at a constant temperature. This energy is then lost in the thought process.

An office worker combats the summer temperatures with a heat fan in the office (Photo: IMAGO, IMAGO/Michael Eichhammer)

The warmer it gets, the harder it is for us to focus and do a great job of thinking.


IMAGO / Michael Eichhammer

what can I do?

You can try to stay calm, not respond spontaneously, and handle everything a little slower. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to look at something blue or look at pictures of cold regions. Because there are also studies that show that we at least feel cold.

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