Theses Bachelor's

The Chill of Fear: Can Experiencing Fear Affect Both Our Judgments of Ambient Temperature and Our Physical Skin Temperature?

Landau, Danielle J.

"It was a chilling account" is one of many metaphors using cold temperature terminology to describe fearful situations. The present study sought to explore whether or not these metaphors reflect psychological (a change in the perception of one's surroundings) and/or physiological (changes in skin temperature) experiences during a fear-inducing event. In this study participants were presented with emotion inducing stimuli designed to elicit a change in their subjective ambient temperature estimates as well as their skin temperature measurements. Before stimulus presentation, participants in this study were asked to provide their initial estimate of the ambient temperature of the testing room. They then watched a video clip showing fear-inducing, neutral or safety-inducing material and were then again asked to estimate the ambient temperature of the room. Throughout the duration of each session, participants' forehead skin temperature was continuously monitored using a skin temperature probe. Across the three conditions (fear, neutral, and safety) participants' subjective estimates of ambient temperature did not change significantly from before stimulus presentation to after stimulus presentation. In the fear condition, however, there was a non-significant trend in the predicted direction. Alternatively, skin temperature measurements did change significantly from baseline measures to measures taken during stimulus presentation, but no interaction effect of the before vs. after periods by the three conditions was observed. These results suggest that more research is needed to determine whether or not metaphors relating cold and fear are simply linguistic devices or reflections of the body and mind's experiences during a fearful experience.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Heuer, Larry B.
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
May 26, 2011