It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. No, but for real, it is, you guys. We’ve got a rainy and humid Fourth ahead of us here in NYC, which seemed like as good a reason as any to look into some of the scientific literature on the ways humidity can affect behavior and mood.
- It makes you forgetful. Humidity appears to impair short-term memory, according to a study that found people had a harder time remembering a string of numbers when it was hot and sticky out. As the authors explain it, the participants’ cognitive resources were diverted away from the test task and “given over to coping with the uncomfortable environment.” Who has the mental capacity to worry about random numbers when you’re worried about breathing through air that feels like hot soup?
- It makes you lethargic. One study published in the 1980s examined the behavioral effects of several different weather conditions — including sunshine, rain, or snow; temperature; wind; humidity; and barometric pressure — and found that humidity was one of the best predictors of people’s moods. Specifically, the higher the humidity, the lower your energy level will likely be.
- It makes you less anxious. The same paper that found a link between humidity and forgetfulness also found that humid conditions alleviate anxiety. Humid conditions have been shown to weaken alertness and increase lethargy; anyway, it’s hard to be nervous when you’re busy napping.
Overall, seems like the sweaty weather we’ve got ahead of us is a nice catch-all to explain whatever questionable antics you get up to over this three-day weekend.