MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tom Chang PhD, BS, MIT
Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics
Marshall School of Business
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There have been many studies showing that women prefer higher indoor
temperatures than men, however nobody looked at the effect of temperature
on performance. We show that the battle for the thermostat is not just
about the comfort. It is much more – in our experiment, women’s cognitive
functioning is the best at high temperatures, whereas men’s at low temperatures.
Significantly, the positive effect of increased temperatures on women’s performance is much stronger than the negative effect on men.
The most surprising was that the effect of temperature on women is so
strong. For instance, at low temperatures, men outperform women in a simple math task. However, when we increase the temperature, women become better and better (1.76% increase of solved tasks with each 1 Celsius increase), and at high temperatures women and men perform on the same level – the gender difference disappears.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The message of the paper is straightforward. Women seem to have a better
cognitive functioning at high temperatures and men at low temperatures.
Each reader can use this as a take away and be more conscious about the ambient temperature when working – it might affect how well they will
perform that day. As for employees and educational institutions – they can learn from this study that the battle for the thermostat is not just a complaint about comfort levels!
One needs to take temperature more seriously because variations in indoor temperature can affect cognitive functioning.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: This is just the first study looking at the effects of temperature on cognitive performance by gender. We ran the experiment with a homogeneous sample at a German university. More research looking at different groups (age, educational background, country) and different cognitive tasks is needed.
Tom Y. Chang, Agne Kajackaite. Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (5): e0216362 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216362
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