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Temperature causing our mood swings

One of my favorite song lyrics is a line in a Drive-by Truckers song that says "Working down at Billy Bob's bar and grill, the food here tastes like the way I feel."

You don't have to hear another line from that song to know that guy's mood. You can guess that having to cook said food had at least something to do with putting him in that mood.

And many of us have been known to say the weather on a particularly cruddy day matches our demeanor. It always seems to be cold and raining on the days when you hate the world and it hates you back. It's those days when you fall down more, get more annoying telephone calls, get chewed out more by the boss and just generally have a rotten time from sunup to sundown.

Or is it mostly in your head? Did the boss really rake you over the coals, or did a minor handslap just feel worse because of your incredibly foul mood? Just how much of a part did the weather play in depressing you to begin with?

A bigger part than you would think, at least according to a study by scientists at Yale University reported Thursday by the Associated Press.

Researchers set out to find out whether warmth would have any effect on subjects' views of other people's personalities. In other words, does comfort have anything to do with whether you think someone is a good person? It appears the answer is yes.

Subjects - who didn't know the true goal of the experiment - were asked to hold either a warm or cold cup in their hands prior to evaluating the personality of a fictitious person. After hearing the description of the person, the people who held the warm cup generally saw a person as having a warmer personality.

In a second experiment in the study, people were asked to hold either a hot pad or an ice pad as part of a phony product test. The actual goal was to see what sort of reward the subjects chose at the end of the test. People who held the hot pad were more generous, tending to choose something to give a friend, while the people who held the ice tended to choose a reward for themselves.

According to the study's leader, the point is that small things in our surroundings like temperature can play a big part in how we see the world.

Makes sense to me. The amount of complaining around here is usually directly proportional to the temperature extreme in the newsroom. Nice and comfortable usually means fewer rants. But freezing or sweltering brings out the worst.

I often utter words I wouldn't want my mama to know I know every time I head for the thermostat to turn it back to a normal temperature after some desert nomad has cranked it up to 82. So it would seem that if they'd just left it on a comfortable temperature to begin with, I would be in a better mood.

Then again, I'm not around in the mornings when they're freezing, so I guess it works both ways.

Sometimes I hate learning new things.

Must be hot in here.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.