Indoor vs. Outdoor Interaction Tracking
This research has addressed questions that attempt to quantify human social interaction using other parameters. We present our findings about these research results, most of which were based on studies done outside the US.
Effects of Weather on Human Social Interaction
- A large study in Lisbon, Portugal, used a calendar year of data for 22,696 mobile phone users who made 53.2 million calls. “Time spent on phone calls, numbers of connected social ties, and tie strength were used as proxies for social interactions; while weather conditions were characterized in terms of temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, and wind speed.” Researchers found “that although weather did not show much influence upon people’s average call duration, the likelihood of longer calls was found to increase during periods of colder weather. During periods of weather that were generally considered to be uncomfortable (i.e., very cold/warm, very low/high air pressure, and windy), people were found to be more likely to communicate with fewer social ties.”
- A large study of 31,855 mobile phone users in Tokyo, Japan, “explore[d] the effects that the weather has on people’s everyday activity patterns.” Temperature, rainfall, and wind speed were found to affect people’s behavior. “People’s daily activity patterns were inferred, such as place visited, the time this took place, the duration of the visit, based on the GPS location traces of their mobile phones overlaid upon Yellow Pages information.” Results indicated that “people were more likely to stay longer at eateries or food outlets, and (to a lesser degree) at retail or shopping areas when the weather is very cold or when conditions are calm (non-windy). … On cold days, people’s activities were found to be more diverse especially after 10AM, showing greatest variations between 2PM and 6PM” and “between 10AM and midnight on rainy days, with people’s activities found to be most diverse on days with heaviest rainfalls or on days when the wind speed was stronger than 4 km/h, especially between 10AM–1AM.”
- A third study found that “physical temperature has no relevant influence on social behavior and social perception.”
Effects of Room Temperature on Human Social Interaction
- A study published in Psychological Science “demonstrated that a room’s temperature has a direct relationship with social relations.” Researchers invited students in two classrooms with different ambient temperatures to help a confederate complete a project by answering as many questions as students wanted to.
- The researchers found that, on average, “students in the hot classroom answered significantly fewer questions than did those in the comfortable classroom (6.44 questions vs. 34.89 questions). In addition, fewer students in the hot classroom were willing to answer even one question (63.9 percent vs. 94.6 percent).”
- The study concluded that “Temperatures reduce productivity and warm offices (between 71.6 and 75.2 degrees) increase positive interactions among colleagues.”
- Another study did not find strong correlations between ambient temperature and subjects’ willingness to help others (prosocial behaviors). Researchers involved 611 subjects in a study to examine “whether higher ambient temperature and/or higher prop temperature (i.e., holding a hot/cold therapeutic pack) [would] lead to more prosocial behavior. Results showed that warmer ambient temperatures were weakly associated with more prosocial than selfish choices.” The researchers determined “that the evidence is better characterized as inconclusive.”
Effects of Geography on Human Social Interaction
- A giant study was done with 1.6 million subjects in the US and China. The Chinese team found that “individuals who grew up in areas with milder temperatures (i.e., closer to 22 °C) scored higher on personality factors related to socialization/stability (agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability) and personal growth/plasticity (extraversion, openness to experience)” than individuals who grew up in different locations.
- US researchers found the same relationships between temperature clemency and personality factors “in a larger dataset of 12,499 ZIP-code level locations (the lowest geographic level feasible) within the United States (N = 1,660,638).”
- Considered as a whole, these research findings offer “a perspective of why and how personalities vary across geographic regions beyond past theories (subsistence theory, selective migration theory, pathogen prevalence theory).” Ambient temperature and climate may well affect human social interaction.
Effects of Chronological Age on Human Social Interaction
- A group of researchers designed a study whose primary goal “was to examine age differences in average levels and intraindividual variability of several important characteristics of social interactions in near real-time and as individuals go about their daily lives. In addition, [they] further explored different sources of age differences in daily social interactions.”
- The study findings revealed that “At the individual level, participants reported, on average, …approximately 12 social interactions per day”. Further, the “participants reported that 45 percent of their most recent social interactions were with one or more family members, 25 percent were with friends and 30 percent were with peripheral relationship partners.”
- The researchers performed “bivariate correlations [on their data, which] indicated that older age, higher education, being employed, being married, having children and not living alone were associated with more frequent daily social interactions with all types of partners. Younger age, being female, being non-White, being employed, having children, and not living alone were associated with interacting with more diverse partners. In terms of interaction quality, being female and having children were associated with higher social interaction quality (higher positivity and lower negativity).”
- The findings of this study of 177 individuals showed that social interaction was highly nuanced and could not be predicted by any single characteristic of an individual.
Numbers of Social Contacts with No Context
- A Harvard Business Review article reported on a study that was behind a paywall, which found that “In a normal day, people interact with somewhere between 11 and 16 weak ties on the way to work, while running errands, or on a break between meetings at the office.”
Our team searched through scientific research reports from the fields of psychology, social psychology, health, and business to locate the studies reported here. While none of them bear directly on the question of how to quantify differences in indoor interactions vs. outdoor interactions by time of year or ambient temperature or geography, nevertheless the research findings indicate that human social behavior is complex and cannot be predicted by a single variable such as ambient temperature or geography. This result may assist interested researchers in designing future studies that include multiple variables.