Women think better at higher temperatures, while men perform better when it is colder, a study found.
When they were asked to do mental arithmetic, women got almost 9% more right when the temperature rose by 5ºC. They tried harder, making more attempts to get answers, unlike men, who solved 3% fewer tasks correctly.
It is well known that women often feel chilly in offices while their male colleagues are sweating. The new findings suggest women do not just need it to be warmer for comfort, but to be able to solve problems efficiently.
The study’s lead author, Tom Chang, associate professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California, said: “What we found is it’s not just whether you feel comfortable or not, but that your performance is affected by temperature.”
Researchers used air-conditioning and electric heaters to vary the temperature of a room between 16ºC and 33ºC.
They asked more than 500 participants to do 50 sums, adding up to five two-digit numbers together over five minutes. In another five-minute task, the participants made as many words as they could out of 10 letters.
For every 10 words women were able to get in this task, they would guess an additional word with every 10ºC rise in temperature. But men would get just over half a word less, according to the study published in the journal PLOS One. Experts believe people make more effort when they are not too cold or too warm.
The study says the results may “raise the stakes for the battle of the thermostat” between the sexes. Chang said: “One of the most surprising things we learned is this isn’t about the extremes of temperature. Even if you go from 15.5ºC to 24ºC, which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”