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Love Linked to Physical Warmth

Update Date: Nov 12, 2013 03:02 PM EST

Love will literally keep you warm this winter.

Scientists found that people feel physically warmer when they hear declarations of affection and support.

However, the opposite is also true. Researchers found that holding a heated object can improve closeness to others.

Researcher looked at MRI scans and found that feelings of social and physical warmth triggered increased activity in the same brain region.

"Together, these results suggest a potential mechanism by which social warmth, the contented subjective experience of feeling loved and connected to other people, has become such a pleasant experience and led credence to the description of connection experiences as 'heartwarming'," researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers recruited 20 participants with an average age of 20. For the study, researchers had relatives or friends write a message of appreciation for the participant or a fact about them.

Researchers then monitored participants' brain activity as they completed several tasks. The participants were also asked to rate how warm and how socially connected they felt on a scale of one (not at all) to seven (very) after completing each task.

In the first experiment, half of the participants read two positive and those in the other group read two neutral messages. Researcher found that participants in the positive group rated their warmth as 6.14 and those in the neutral group rated their warmth as 3.8.

The latest findings suggest that there is "an interplay between social and physical warmth," according to researchers.

In the second experiment, participants were asked to hold a warm pack and a room temperature ball for 10 seconds each. They were asked to repeat this five times.

Researcher found that holding a warm object triggered higher ratings of connection compared to holding a room temperature object.

According to researchers, maintaining warm core body temperature "may have been co-opted to maintain social warmth' during human evolution," according to the Daily Mail.

Researchers also said that physical warmth could be used to help improve some social problems.

"Given the importance of social connections for general well-being and happiness, this may inform larger interventions designed to combat feelings of isolation or loneliness through temperature manipulations," researchers wrote.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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