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Funny You Should Ask: It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

Mumbai vs. Houston

By Vanessa Patrick

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity? When I read that, my brain screams, “Wait a minute – it IS the heat!!!!” I don’t know about the humidity, but I know – possibly way too much – about the heat.

When I was an Assistant Professor, I published a paper with a dear friend and co-author on the impact of temperature (warm vs. cool) on cognitive processing. In our painstakingly-run studies, we had to create experimental rooms that were temperature controlled to assess the impact of small changes of temperature on consumer performance on difficult and risky (vs. easy and benign) tasks. We found that warm temperatures are depleting – in other words, it saps our mental and physical energy – and that makes us less able to perform difficult and risky tasks. Admittedly, our studies kept humidity constant, so I cannot speak to humidity from a scientific perspective. But from a personal perspective, since I grew up in Mumbai, India, in my book it is the heat, not the humidity, that really gets me!

By the way, my fellow Houstonians, even though your weatherperson reports similar levels of heat and humidity in Houston and Mumbai, believe me – you definitely “feel” hotter in Mumbai! Homes are not centrally air-conditioned, walking to take a train or bus in the afternoon sun is a given, and the pools and waterparks that we find so refreshing here are virtually non-existent.

Patrick is a professor of marketing in the Bauer College of Business and Director of Bauer Ph.D. Programs. Prior to her academic career, she worked in advertising and branding, serving as a consultant to companies like Coca-Cola, CNN and Hallmark.

Cartoon image of Eric Gerber

About Eric Gerber

As a former newspaper guy, I made a living out of asking serious questions. As the University’s communications director, I have to come up with serious answers. But, from time to time, I get a little silly and encourage UH’s otherwise serious academics and researchers to take a light-hearted approach and respond to our simple-minded inquiries with tongue firmly in cheek.