In many homes, especially those where both men and women are present, the battle for control over the thermostat is very, very real. If you find you're often the one cranking up the heat or turning down the air conditioning, there's a reason for that, mama.
According to a study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, women think better in warmer temperatures, while men get sharper when the air conditioning kicks in.
Researchers recruited hundreds of college students, both men and women, and put them in rooms where the temperatures ranged from 61 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the students took tests. Their math, verbal and local skills were evaluated. It was pretty simple stuff, like doing addition without pulling up the calculator on your phone or making as many words as you can from a bunch of letters within a set time limit.
For every 1.8 degrees that the temperature went up, women performed better on the math problems by nearly 1.8%! Basically, when the room got warmer, the women could think clearer. As for the men, when the temperature went up by 1.8 degrees their math performance suffered by about 0.63%. They were not as impacted as women, but still clearly did better when the rooms were colder.
The researchers were thinking about offices when they set out to do this study, and suggest that many air-conditioned office spaces are too cold for women and should be less chilly. But the research also makes sense within the context of many homes where disagreements over temperature are a common occurrence.
The study proves that those of us who are shuffling around the house in slippers and sweaters in May while our partners are walking around in basketball shorts and t-shirts may have a point. As Paul C. Rosenblatt, a Professor Emeritus of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota wrote for HuffPost, "in heterosexual couples the woman was three times more likely than the man to be the colder one," and "that for couples with real differences in temperature preference, there is problem solving to do."
Part of that problem solving may involve compromise or different temperature settings in different rooms when possible. "There are couples who battle for years about thermostat settings — thermostat wars in which each sneaks to the thermostat to set it up or down when the partner isn't paying attention," Rosenblatt writes.
That's not ideal, but neither is having brain freeze all time or wearing three pairs of socks in the house. A 1998 study out of the University of Utah found women usually do have colder hands and feet than men, by about 3 degrees Celsius.
Maybe it's time for everyone to comprise. If the house is just a couple degrees warmer we might all be happier.