Clear thinking this winter and a successful spring semester

Assumption College Undergraduate

psychology experiments show better cognitive ability in cooler temperaturesIn a previous blog, we discussed the importance of getting a little rest over the winter break.

Entering mid-January rejuvenated and ready to take on the next semester, whether in college or high school, is a great feeling.

Just as our bodies use energy — stored in glucose — to complete physical tasks like walking, talking and breathing, we also use glucose to perform heavy-duty thinking. In unusually hot or unusually cold situations, your body has to work a little bit harder to regulate its temperature, for example sweating in the heat and shivering in the cold.

Several psychology experiments mentioned in an article in Scientific American found that the brain, although working a little harder to maintain homeostasis in both situations, did not make decisions as well in hot temperatures as in cold temperatures. One experiment, for example, asked participants to proofread an article in a warm room (77 degrees), and others in a cool room (67 degrees).  Those in the warm room missed almost half of the mistakes, while the cool room’s participants only missed about 25 percent.

As the Scientific American article states, these studies don’t “rule out the possibility that these effects are driven by improvements in cognitive ability under cooler conditions (as opposed to impairment under warmer conditions),” but nonetheless, you can look on the bright side that your brain will function better on these extremely cold days than a mid-February heat wave.

As the New Year begins, and schoolwork picks up, think about your game plan for winter. Assumption College psychology students can learn more about ways to take full advantage of the winter months in various courses, such as  PSY 230 Positive Psychology: Psychology of Well-Being, where students learn about ‘how spirituality (mindfulness, meditation, religion), positive emotions and traits, and humor impact well-being, where students work to understand different factors that allow an individual to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life.’ Bachelor’s degree students can also study the physiological workings of chemical and biological components of the brain’s workings with a concentration in Brain, Behavior and Cognition.

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