Why Does the Heat Make People More Violent?
“Jessica totally lost her cool.”
“Mark is such a hot-head!”
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It’s no secret that people associate heat with aggression and sometimes even violence. But, does heat really impact our behavior? Can seasonal heat waves really be the cause of periodic crime spikes? Today on Healthversed, we’re turning up the thermostat and scouring the internet to bring you all of the latest on the relationship between your thermometer and your patience.
What Is Hot?
Before we get all hot and bothered, we should probably set the ground rules. Though comfort is relative, and dependent on a whole host of different factors, 72 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as room temperature, is widely recognized as “comfortable” for most people.
“Hot,” in turn, should be understood to mean any temperature about 78 Degrees Fahrenheit and higher. (That is, unless you’re my dog. Then, anything above freezing is much too warm.)
A History of Violence
Before we tackle the why, let’s take a look at some real-life examples of the heat’s effect on human behavior. In an article for the Atlantic, Olga Khazan breaks down a study that attempts to link periods of dramatic climate change with periods of violent instability. Based on the data she looked at, an increase in temperature is clearly linked to an increase in conflict.
Why? No one is exactly sure. But, forced migration and a lack of available resources probably played a significant factor historically.
Crime vs. Weather in Chicago
Heat’s association with violence and instability isn’t just a relic of ancient times. Associate Professor Ellen G. Cohn of Florida International University proved this when she plotted violent crime in Chicago against the precise temperature of the region at the time that the infraction was committed.
The result? Crime steadily rose with the temperature — that is, until the thermometer hit 89 Degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, crime took a significant nosedive.