THE TEMPERATURE PREMIUM
IDC Researcher: Jacob Goldenberg
Research: “The Temperature Premium: Warm temperatures increase product valuation”
School and department: School of Business, Marketing department
Harvard Business Review write-up:
IDC professor along with Hebrew University PhD student and Columbia Professor publish research on the effect of temperature on shopping behaviors
Today there are so many ways that stores try to entice us to spend our money. Advertising gimmicks lure us in, smells and colors tickle our senses, and gadgets and toys keep us in places like the Apple Store all day. It is increasingly difficult to exercise will power and keep shopping temptations at bay. On top of all that, there can be other factors affecting our willingness to shop that we may not even be aware of. In their article titled “The Temperature Premium: Warm temperatures increase product valuation” researchers Yonat Zwebner, Leonard Lee Jacob Goldenberg argue that another sneaky factor can manipulate people’s willingness to shop: heat.
In this research, the authors contend that the physical temperature within a store can actually increase how you valuate merchandise and ultimately your intention to buy. They based such research on the psychological phenomenon that physical warmth fosters an abstract notion of emotional warmth[i], as well as prior research demonstrating that environmental factors unrelated to the products themselves, such as music and lighting, affect product valuation[ii],[iii]. Through field and lab studies using students at a large Israeli university, the researchers examined how physical warmth influences product valuation.
Of the five studies they conducted, Zwebner, Lee and Goldenberg showed in the first three experiments that in both a controlled lab setting as well as in an online shopping context, warm temperature increases willingness to pay. In the last two studies the researchers demonstrated that this so-called “temperature premium” effect is brought about by the positive reactions that emotional warmth generates. They tested this through manipulating physical temperature manipulation as well as observing temperature over a twenty-four month period. Additionally, the trio found that consumers perceive objects as being closer to them and are willing to pay more when they are in warm room than in a cool one.
Yonat Zwebner was a PhD student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the time of the study and is now a Post-Doc at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. This research is part of her PhD dissertation. Leonard Lee was an associate professor at Columbia at the time of the research and now works at the National University of Singapore. Jacob Goldenberg teaches right here in the marketing department at IDC and is also a visiting professor at National University of Singapore. In additional to this research, Professor Goldenberg’s work has been published in leading journals such as the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Advertising, and International Studies of Management Organization, as well as covered in publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has also written four books and is a recipient of various awards and fellowships.
In discussing this study, Professor Goldenberg notes that the findings pose interesting ethical implications for storeowners and companies. The results imply that it is possible to psychologically manipulate shoppers to spend more money, making them feel more emotionally connected to their products. But is it morally acceptable to change stores’ temperatures like this, knowing full well that it is a ploy to increase consumer spending? On the flip side, though, just as businesses can read the findings and plan accordingly, so can consumers. Now knowing the implications of this study, we, as consumers, can be more attuned to our environments when shopping and not fall victim to the temperature premium effect!
[i] Coke, J. S., Batson, C. D., & McDavis, K. (1978). Empathetic mediation of helping:A two-stage model.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 752–766.
[ii] Belk, R. W. (1975). Situational variables and consumer-behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 2, 157–
[iii] Krishna, A. (2012). An integrative review of sensory marketing: Engaging the senses to affect perception, judgment and behavior. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 332–351. Lakoff, G., & Johnson,