Women's Brains Work Better In Warmer Rooms: Study
Women perform better in maths and language tasks when the heat is on -- literally.
In a study of more than 500 people, researchers looked at men's and women's performance across a range of different temperatures between 16 and 33 degrees celsius.
Participants had to add up numbers, build words using an assortment of letters and complete short cognitive problems across 50 tasks.
The researchers found that every one degree Celsius increase in temperature was associated with an increase in the number of maths questions answered correctly by the women.
Conversely, the men submitted fewer correct maths answers with every degree increase.
The same relationship between temperature and score improvement for women was found in the language task.
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However, there didn't appear to be any effect of temperature on the scores in the cognitive tests. Researchers theorised this may be because these differences would need longer than the time given to participants to appear.
The "battle of the thermostat" has been a well-established physiological gender difference for many years in offices and classrooms worldwide, as it has been found women generally prefer higher indoor temperatures than men.
This study is the first to establish that the optimal temperature for women may improve more than just comfort and actually affects cognitive performance.
Associate professor Tom Chang, an economics researcher from the University of Southern California and one of the paper's authors, told 10 daily he was surprised no research exploring gendered temperature effects on cognition had been done before.
"I think we've known that women generally prefer higher indoor temperatures than men for longer than a decade. In fact, my wife and I have personally lived this particular battle for well over a decade," he said.
Chang believes this effect may have never been explored before because "people just didn't think it would have any effects beyond comfort."
Chang said the results of the experiment were much more stark than he expected, with meaningful variation in task performance even within the normal range of indoor temperatures.
The researchers believe the findings could have implications for how workplaces operate.
"Our results are about averages, so ideally allowing more individual customisation of office temperature might lead to meaningful increase in productivity," Chang said.
"If that's not possible, then given our results for a mixed gender workplace, you might want to crank up the temperature."
Chang said that allowing for an increase in office temperature will save companies money, be more environmentally-friendly, and quite possibly increase worker productivity.