Core body temperature speeds up temporal processing and choice behavior under deadlines

Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 11;9(1):10053. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46073-3.


Evidence suggests that human timing ability is compromised by heat. In particular, some studies suggest that increasing body temperature speeds up an internal clock, resulting in faster time perception. However, the consequences of this speed-up for other cognitive processes remain unknown. In the current study, we rigorously tested the speed-up hypothesis by inducing passive hyperthermia through immersion of participants in warm water. In addition, we tested how a change in time perception affects performance in decision making under deadline stress. We found that participants underestimate a prelearned temporal interval when body temperature increases, and that their performance in a two-alternative forced-choice task displays signatures of increased time pressure. These results show not only that timing plays an important role in decision-making, but also that this relationship is mediated by temperature. The consequences for decision-making in job environments that are demanding due to changes in body temperature may be considerable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Delay Discounting / physiology*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Perception
  • Work Performance
  • Young Adult