Can the temperature of a room affect a buyer's eagerness to buy an item — or haggle for a good deal? Yes, according to FIU Business research.
"When our bodies are uncomfortable it increases aggressiveness," said Jayati Sinha, associate professor of marketing and logistics, who co-authored the study that was published in the Journal of Marketing.
The study analyzed housing auction data and reported results from a series of six designed and controlled auctions and negotiations. The data measured the impact of temperatures between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a moderate range present in many office and home settings, as well as temperatures as high as 82 degrees.
In one scenario, participants were asked to consider purchasing a five-day Southern Caribbean cruise vacation package listed online for $1,000. Auction participants in the warmer room offered higher bids. However, in a negotiating setting, those in the warmer room made lower offers.
"When it comes to an auction, higher temperatures will create a more aggressive buyer, willing to pay a higher price," said Sinha. "That buyer will try to outperform everyone, so they generally bid higher."
But in a one-on-one negotiation, the same sense of aggressiveness generated by higher temperatures will lead a buyer to push for the best possible deal from the seller — and lower the price they're willing to pay.
"When it comes to an auction, higher temperatures will create a more aggressive buyer, willing to pay a higher price. That buyer will try to outperform."
Jayati Sinha, Associate Professor, Marketing and Logistics
Raising the temperature even provided incentives for more thorough coupon clipping, with participants in the warmer room spending more time looking for the best deal.
Sinha noted that the study can provide businesses with guidance on how to use temperature to affect decision making in selling contexts and beyond. For example, an auctioneer might choose to hold auctions in the summer, or in a warmer room. By contrast, for initiatives such as negotiating workplace responsibilities or chores at home, setting more moderate temperatures may lead to more integrative decision-making and compromise.
In addition to areas where temperatures can be set and moderated, the study may yield new insights where thermal controls are difficult to insulate and control, such as buildings, and even markets in developing countries. Sinha also sees potential for the study of how discomfort generated through other means, such as crowding, uncomfortable seating or noise, could also influence behaviors at auctions and negotiations.
The study was co-authored with Rajesh Bagchi of the Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business.