Photo: Shutterstock; Illustration: Joseph Lin / Ladders
The clash between men, women and the thermostat began in the office, where shivering women in cardigans and skirts battled men in suits overturning up the temp up just a little bit. (According to a 2015 report, the heat and overall temperatures in office buildings are based on the requirements of a 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds.
Last May, shivering cardigan-draped working women everywhere scored a win, after a German research team reported that women worked better when the temperature was higher – and that working in colder spaces dampened their productivity.
Now that winter weather is here, however, new research from Ohio State University has reported that combat has moved to the household, where women are losing, left cold and shivering in their own homes because he can’t understand why the thermostat needs to be up so high.
Women have achieved many historic wins in the last hundred years. Women won the right to vote after the 19th amendment was passed in 1920. President John F. Kennedy signs into law the Equal Pay Act, forbidding sex-based wage discrimination between men and women performing the same job in the same workplace, in 1963. Roe vs. Wade is decided 7-2. In 2013, the U.S. military removes a ban against women serving in combat positions.
But there are no wins in this arena.
“It’s possible women are losing the thermostat battle,” said paper author and behavior expert Nicole Sintov of Ohio State University in a release. “The data hints toward that being what’s going on here.”
The participants were 112 Ohio couples and families, who completed a survey and wrote daily diary entries for about two weeks about the decisions and behaviors that revolved around the thermostat.
Each night in their diaries, they were reminded to answer three questions: “Did you or anyone else in your house adjust the thermostat today?” and “What adjustments were made by whom?” They were also asked, “Others in your home may have different thoughts about how warm or cool it is in the house. Tell us bout any related discussions you had.”
When it comes to getting the thermostat moved, researchers found that trying to make it happen through disagreements resulted in fewer temperature changes.
When conflicts over heat and cold resulted in a compromise or even an agreement, however, positive results in changing the thermostat happened more often.
The resulting actions were summed up by the researchers as agreement, compromise, and conflict.
“A woman might construe as a conflict what a man might construe as a compromise,” Sintov said.
Whatever it may be, there’s no easy answer – and it looks like someone is always going to end up putting on a sweater or opening up a window.
“It seems like if you disagree with someone on thermal comfort and what you want to do to moderate that, the thermostat is less likely to get changed,” Sintov said. “I’m not here to say that’s a good or bad thing. It suggests there’s a stalemate for some reason that we don’t know.”
“Alternatively, one person might exert authority over the thermostat to cater to their needs while other household members’ needs are sidelined. There are some negatives for those involved in conflicts — because you have two or more people who are already uncomfortable, and you also now have interpersonal conflict, which is not pleasant.”
That’s just the way it goes in the eternal battle of the thermostat.
The study was published in PLOS ONE. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.