A biology for words: lonliness really IS cold

Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science reports on new research that demonstrates that being "frozen out" is more than just an apt metaphor for being excluded, and that metaphors have a surprising hold over us.

[C]old and solitude are more than just metaphorical bedfellows; a newstudy shows that social exclusion can literally make people feel cold...

...[B]eing ostracised, or even the memory of being ostracised, drums up both a literal chill and a desire for warmth. It can work the other way round too; invoking the concept of temperature can alter your opinions of another person. In an as yet unpublished study [University of Toronto], graduate students Lawrence Williams and John Bargh asked other students to hold a cup of hot or iced coffee, before talking to another researcher. Afterwards, those who held the hot drink rated the stranger as being warmer and friendlier and were more likely to recommend them for a job.

To [University of Toronto researchers] Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, studies like these are a testament to the power of metaphors. When we first learn to wield them in English lessons, we are taught that they are not meant to be taken literally, and yet psychological experiments show that many metaphors reflect fundamental ties between our social lives and our physical sensations.

Not only does this research cross wide conceptual territory, but you might be surprised to know that the researchers mentioned above are not affiliated with a university medical institution, but are on the faculty at the Rotman School of Business, publishers of one of my favorite periodicals, Rotman Magazine.