Warming Up Your Wallet

Tom Jacobs surveys a set of experiments suggesting that we buy more when we’re warm:

[R]esearchers manipulated the temperature in the room where the study was conducted, so it was either four degrees Celsius above or below the standard temperature of 22 degrees (72 degrees Fahrenheit). The 109 participants, all university students, filled out a form for three to four minutes to acclimate to the environment. They then looked at 11 images of “different target products that college students typically consume,” and asked how much they were willing to pay for each.

Those in the warm room were willing to pay more for nine of the 11 products. Although participants rated the room as equally comfortable on the warm and cool settings, “ambient warm temperature increased product valuation over a cool temperature by 10.4 percent,” [researcher Yonat] Zwebner and her colleagues report. Further experiments confirmed these results and indicated a likely mechanism behind this dynamic: “Physical warmth induces emotional warmth, which generates greater positive reactions.”

So don’t be surprised if shop owners keep things nice and cozy this holiday season: It’s good for business. And if you’re prone to impulse buying, be especially careful on warm days. That product that seemed overpriced a few days earlier may suddenly look like a bargain.