Comfortably Warm: A Momentary Lapse of Reaffiliation After Exclusion

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Experiencing the tactile sensation of warmth can affect cognition and behavior across a variety of domains, including affiliation, aggression, and consumer choice. Yet few investigations have provided a theoretical rationale for when and why such effects occur. Five experiments tested the hypothesis that the tactile experience of warmth can satisfy a person’s acutely active desire for social affiliation. Across 5 experiments, the tactile experience of warmth (vs. control temperatures) reduced outcomes that would otherwise be aimed at restoring a person’s level of social affiliation, but this effect was observed only among people who had just been excluded (not those undergoing a control procedure) and only among people low in fear of negative evaluation—those people known to experience strongly activated affiliative motives following exclusion. Findings suggest that warmth—a sensation signaling the proximity of a close relationship partner—satisfies currently active affiliative motives. More broadly, findings provide a theoretical framework for understanding ways in which effects of sensory primes depend upon the motivational state of the perceiver.

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