hot coffee

Meeting with a sales prospect in person for the first time? Think twice before you offer her a nice, ice-cold beverage. Instead, try a steaming mug of hot coffee to make the best impression. One of my favorite researchers, John Bargh of Yale University, found that the temperature of a beverage makes a difference in how a person judges another person:

The experimenters, Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John Bargh of Yale, gave cups of either hot or iced coffee to people and asked them to rate someone’s personality based on a packet of information. The ones who held the hot cup rated that individual significantly higher for “warmth” than did the subjects holding the iced coffee…

Dr. Bargh points to recent brain imaging studies showing that the experience of hot or cold stimulus triggers activity in the insular cortex, the same area of the brain associated with a personality disorder that makes people uncooperative and distrustful.[From the New York Times – Heart-Warming News on Hot Coffee by John Tierney.]

Interestingly enough, the warm beverages affect not just our perceptions of other people, but our own behavior as well. According to Bargh, ““Physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer – more generous and trusting – as well.”

The neuromarketing takeaway here is that given the choice, you might be better off meeting a sales prospect or potential business partner for coffee than a cold drink. Not only will your companion judge YOU to be a warmer person, he or she will be more generous and trusting as well.

Unfortunately, Williams and Bargh did not conduct variations on the experiment using alcoholic beverages, which, I have heard from reliable sources, have their own behavior modification potential.

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