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Hot and Cold Emotions


Explanations > Emotions > Hot and Cold Emotions

Hot | Cold | Hot and Cold | Inner and outerSo what


Our emotions can described with a temperature metaphor, where 'hot' is aroused and 'cold' is not aroused.


Hot emotions are those that are experienced with a high level of arousal and a 'hot' state is related to high levels of interest, emotion or activity.

One reason that emotions are called hot is that we actually feel hotter as adrenaline is released and blood flows to muscles making us feel more energetic. The skin may also redden, contributing to both the feeling and appearance of a higher temperature.

In general, we feel happier when we are 'warmer' than when we are 'colder', though being hot all the time can be exhausting so we spend much of our time in a 'warm' place where we are motivated enough to do what we need to do without burning out.

If we think of times when we were happiest, there is a good chance it was in a hotter state, perhaps when we were passionate about something, challenging ourselves physically or engaged in intense discovery. It is not surprising that we frequently seek a hotter state and that the search for arousal is a core need.


Cold emotions are those that are experienced with a low level of arousal. They may well be more cognitive in experience then emotional. In a cold state we may be calm and in control of ourselves. We may also bored, flat and lethargic.

When people display cold emotions they may be still be experiencing them as hot, but do not want others to know this. This may be due to a desire to deceive or it may be based on a social need not to burden others with one's own strength of feelings.

Psychopaths have been described as having 'cold empathy' in the way that they recognize emotions in others but do not experience the normal feelings of Empathy. They may well be skilled at appearing empathetic, but this is just a sham to fit it or manipulate others.

Hot and cold

Individual experience may range from mostly hot to mostly cold. In this way, some may naturally feel emotions in the extreme, others may feel very little. Most of us, however, are somewhere in between.


There is a question of, whether or not we feel emotions, how we display them to others. Whole cultures may be hot or cold, permitting or denying hot public expression of emotions. In some countries if you do not display strong emotion you are thought not to care, while in others displaying anything other than a calm exterior is considered very rude.

Organizations may also have variably hot or cold cultures, perhaps based on the original culture of their founders. Hence a company that originated in Finland may be more restrained whilst an Italian one may expect more vigorous debate.


Individual emotions may be felt on a spectrum of intensity from high-intensity hot to low-intensity cold, as in the table below:


Basic emotion Cold   Hot
Anger Irritation to Fury
Happiness Satisfaction to Joy
Fear Concern to Terror
Sadness Pensiveness to Despair
Surprise Curiosity to Shock
Disgust Offended to Revulsion


Inner and outer

What people display on the outside may not reflect what they feel on the inside. This can lead to different types of overall behavior.


Hot-Cold personality matrix

What I experience on the inside
Hot Cold

What I display on the outside










The 'Firework' person feels emotions strongly and displays these as they feel them. They may be described as 'wearing their heart on their sleeve'.

One reason why Fireworks act this way is because the contextual culture permits or even expects this form of honesty. They may alternatively lack self-control and so are unable to control the display of emotion.

Another reason that people is that they have found it an effective way of getting what they want. People who express strong emotions often gain attention and are believed more than those who express their feelings quietly.


Fakers know the benefits of expressing strong emotions and so express them, even though they do not really feel them as strongly as they are indicating.

Faking is common in particular situations where there is a specific goal being sought, for example in romantic dating or in high-stakes negotiation. It may also be found where cultural norms expect it.

Psychopathic people may also use faking in order to fit in or to manipulate others. They do not feel much in the way of emotions, often considering them a weakness, but they may well realize that others respond to emotional appeals and so they put on an appropriate act.


The Frigid person neither feels emotions nor sees the need to fake them. They likely prize a more cerebral, thoughtful approach to life and find emotional people as illogical irritations. They may hence see emotional appeals as worthless attempts at manipulation and an inability to provide true logical argument.


People who are Repressed hold in their emotions and seek to appear cool.

The bottling-up and non-expression of emotions does not help them and may only serve to intensify how they feel, trapping them in the emotion and unable to move on.

The fact that they are experiencing emotions may well appear in their body language, which can appear deceptive as they send mixed messages. While their words indicate a cool state, their bodies may be held rigid or display aggression or other strong signals.

So what?

Understand the levels of emotion that other feel and the difference between what they feel and what they display. Use hot or cold approaches depending on the local culture and the person in question.

Your speech can also be hot and cold, depending on the need. Hot speech arouses others. Cold speech presents logical arguments and calms down others. Managing hot and cold can be very helpful in public speaking.

See also

Five Dimensions of Emotion, Emotional Arousal, Preferences, Culture, Public Speaking and Presentation


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