Causes of Conflict – The Connection Between Heat and Violence

People often use the expression “hot-blooded” as an explanation for someone who easily becomes aggressive or violent.

However, a great deal of research shows how temperature and levels of human aggression directly correspond, and how this has been the case throughout history.

Journalist Elizabeth Landau explains that many ancient civilizations collapsed during times of extreme heat and drought. These civilizations, such as the Mayan Empire and many Chinese dynasties, fell because of internal struggles with their own people that then left them vulnerable to conquest.

Craig Anderson of Iowa State University’s Department of Psychology reveals, “Exposure to hot temperatures increases heart rate, endorsement of aggressive attitudes and beliefs, and feelings of hostility, all the while decreasing feelings of arousal and comfort.” When the season gets hot, people at a biological level are more prone to an anxious and hostile temperament.

This makes it more challenging to think logically and remain calm in situations, placing increased temperature as one of the leading causes of conflict in human interaction.

“Being uncomfortable colors the way people see things,” Anderson continues, “Minor insults may be perceived as major ones, inviting (even demanding) retaliation.” So, people’s responses in social situations may shift drastically in the heat-ridden months.

Causes of Conflict – Heat and Increased Interaction

Julia Dahl of CBS gives us another interesting piece to this puzzle. During her interview with Dr. Sheridan, co-writer of a recent Cleveland crime-rate study, Sheridan spoke on his findings for how the crime was always significantly greater in the summertime. “Some of the reason is increase in aggressive behavior, but a lot of it has to do with more people interacting with each other when the weather is warmer.”

Cold weather drives people in-doors, whereas warm weather invites more and more people into public environments. The more people are interacting, the greater chance there is for disagreements, hostility, and altercations.

These are valuable pieces of knowledge to remember in Crisis Intervention and Workplace Violence training. Since aggression and violence are almost guaranteed to spike when the weather gets hot, staff would greatly benefit from training (or at least a re-fresher course from previous training) at the beginning of the summer.



Anderson, Craig. “Heat and Violence.” . American Psychological Society, 1 Jan. 2001. Web. 20 June 2014. <>.

Dahl, Julia . “Hot and bothered: Experts say violent crime rises with the heat.” . CBS News, 6 July 2006. Web. 20 June 2014. <>.

Landau, Elizabeth. “Climate change may increase violence, study shows.” . CNN, 2 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 June 2014. <>.