Too hot or too cold? The room temp can get blamed after botching a test or exam – but now science says it's a valid concern

Temperature can affect people's mental performance.
Temperature can affect people's mental performance.

If you're taking a test, you might want to check the thermostat first.

Room temperature – a frequent front in the battle of the sexes – makes a difference in how men and women score on math and verbal tests, new research says.

Vive la différence

Specifically, women scored higher when the temperature was warmer. Men did better when the room was cooler.

Many surveys have found women tend to prefer higher indoor temperatures, but this study examines how temperature could affect differences in mental performance, according to study authors Tom Chang, from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, and Agne Kajackaite, from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany.

The research included 542 German university students in 24 groups who took logic, maths and verbal tests in rooms set at temperatures ranging from about 16 to 33 degrees Celsius. Participants got cash rewards based on their scores.

Women, who made up 41% of the participants, generally scored higher at math and verbal tests when the room was at the warmer end of the range, while men generally did better at cooler temperatures.

Logic test unaffected

The improved performance of women at warmer temperatures was larger than the men's decrease in performance at these temperatures.

Room temperature did not affect performance on the logic test, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The findings suggest temperature might affect more than comfort alone, according to Chang and Kajackaite. It's possible that "ordinary variations in room temperature can affect cognitive performance significantly and differently for men and women," they said in a journal news release.

The researchers pointed out that the test was done on a relatively similar group of German students, so the findings might be different for other groups of people.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24