Is Cuffing a Real Phenomenon?

As we enter the coldest winter months, the term “cuffing season” is being used with greater frequency by unattached women and men. Not familiar with it? Urban Dictionary and First Date Stories’ Modern Day Dating Dictionary define “cuffing season” as a time in which people “…who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves…desiring to be ‘cuffed,’ or tied down by a serious relationship.” Finding a partner to spend time indoors, and in the warmth with, becomes of utmost importance.

While there are few academic studies that focus on cuffing, it may be a very real phenomenon, grounded in principles of psychology. Being that the term “cuffing season” connects temperature with our perceptions and behaviors, it relates to the subject of embodied cognition, which is the idea that our perceptions affect how we think.1

Embodied cognition demonstrates that social experiences are not independent of our bodies and physical experiences. This connection is also bidirectional, meaning that our thoughts influence our bodies and our bodies influence our thoughts.

Consider the research finding, for example, that touching warm objects influences peoples’ assessments of others; as participants who held a cup of hot coffee rated a random person as warmer and friendlier compared to those who held a cup of cold coffee.Definitely keep this in mind the next time you go out for coffee or tea on a first date!

Reversing this temperature and perception relationship, researchers have also found that people literally felt cold, or preferred warm food, when they experienced being socially excluded. This demonstrated that feelings of isolation led people to seek warmth.2

Being that our environmental experiences can influence our thoughts and our perceptions of situations, it seems natural that the winter months would affect our desire to be close to others. Therefore, the link between embodied cognition and cuffing seems natural.

Even though the desire to be with others in the cold hasn’t received much research attention, studies have focused on how the cold can affect our activity preferences. In a recent series of studies, researchers set out to determine if physical coldness activates the motivation for psychological warmth, which may manifest itself in the preference for romantic movies.3

In the first study, 53 participants were randomly assigned to either drink hot or cold tea and were presented with information on three movies from each of the following four genres: romance, action, comedy, and thrillers. Next, they rated how good they thought each movie would be.

Participants consuming cold drinks showed a greater preference for romance movies than those having the hot drinks. However, the ratings for the other movie genres were not significantly different, demonstrating that the cold only influenced perception of romance movies, not movies in general. Overall, the research suggests that physical coldness led to an increased liking for romance movies.3

If you live where the weather can get brutally cold and you’re preparing to endure what may be the worst part of the winter, take a tip from the research. Set your movie queue up to include plenty of romantic films! Not only will they be entertaining, but they may bring you some much needed warmth. Perhaps you’ll also want to invite a special someone to enjoy them with you.


Part of this article is excerpted from a post on Psychology Today.


1Williems, R. M., & Francken, J. C. (2012). Embodied cognition: Taking the next step. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-3.
2Zhong, C., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2008). Cold and lonely: Does social exclusion literally feel cold? Psychological Science, 19, 838-842.
3Hong, J., & Sun, Y. (2012). Warm it up with love: The effect of physical coldness on liking of romance movies. Journal of Consumer Research39(2), 293-306.

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