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Perceived temperature modulates peripersonal and interpersonal spaces differently in men and women

Ruggiero, Gennaro, Rapuano, Mariachiara, Iachini, Tina
Journal of environmental psychology 2019 v.63 pp. 52-59
cognition, men, social behavior, temperature, women
Previous studies have shown a reciprocal influence between social proximity and temperature perceptions. However, it is unclear whether warmth/coldness can directly influence the spatial distance regulation to others. Recent evidence has shown that peripersonal-space for action and interpersonal-space for social interaction are similarly modulated by approach/avoidance functions between people. Therefore, we investigated whether perceived temperature influences these spaces. We hypothesized that warmth should elicit closeness (approach) while coldness enlargement (avoidance) in both peripersonal and interpersonal spaces. While holding cups of warm/cold/room-temperature water, participants determined reachability-peripersonal and comfort-interpersonal distances from virtual confederates. Results showed that temperatures modulated similarly peripersonal and interpersonal spaces. Interestingly, in both spaces warmth elicited closeness in women, the opposite in men; coldness elicited farther distance in women, the opposite in men. Consistent with embodied social cognition, these findings confirm that perceived temperatures serve as a metaphor for bridging physical experience and interpersonal/peripersonal social boundaries through approach-avoidance functions.