Hot or not? Thermal reactions to social contact.
Previous studies using thermal imaging have suggested that face and body temperature increase during periods of sexual arousal. Additionally, facial skin temperature changes are associated with other forms of emotional arousal, including fear and stress. This study investigated whether interpersonal social contact can elicit facial temperature changes. Study 1: infrared images were taken during a standardized interaction with a same- and opposite-sex experimenter using skin contact in a number of potentially high-intimate (face and chest) and low-intimate (arm and palm) locations. Facial skin temperatures significantly increased from baseline during the face and chest contact, and these temperature shifts were larger when contact was made by an opposite-sex experimenter. Study 2: the topography of facial temperature change was investigated in five regions: forehead, periorbital, nose, mouth and cheeks. Increased temperature in the periorbital, nose and mouth regions predicted overall facial temperature shifts to social contact. Our findings demonstrate skin temperature changes are a sensitive index of arousal during interpersonal interactions.