A body-to-mind perspective on social connection: Physical warmth potentiates brain activity to close others and subsequent feelings of social connection.

Author: Inagaki TK1, Ross LP1
1Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh.
Conference/Journal: Emotion.
Date published: 2020 Mar 19
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1037/emo0000749. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 229

Social connection may stem from afferent pathways that bring bodily information to the brain and mind. In support of this perspective, research from animals and humans shows that physical warmth causally affects experiences of social connection. However, whether physical warmth affects feelings of social connection and the brain's response to close others remains unknown. In the current study, 42 participants completed an fMRI scan as they viewed images of a close other and strangers while holding warm, cold, and room-temperature objects. Following the scan, participants reported on their feelings of social connection and pleasure in response to the three temperature conditions. Results revealed a specific effect of physical warmth on brain activity to close others as compared with cooler temperatures (both cold and room temperature) and strangers (e.g., in the ventral striatum, middle-insula, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, pregenual cingulate cortex). Cooler temperatures had no effect on brain activity to close others (vs. strangers). Further, physical warmth increased feelings of social connection, even when adjusting for feelings of pleasure, but not vice versa, suggesting physical warmth may have specific effects on feelings of social connection. Results add to an emerging literature on the contribution of physical warmth to social connection and furthers understanding of why and how connecting with others is a basic need for humans. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

KEYWORDS: social connection; co-regulation

PMID: 32191084 DOI: 10.1037/emo0000749