My Google "coffee" feed always dredges up a few news stories in which coffee is only a tangential player -- that is, stories in which coffee is mentioned even though the story is actually about something else. For example, judging by the news stories that pop up in my Inbox, a hefty percentage of public officials around the world are, at this moment, serving paper cups of coffee to constituents in various public buildings, malls and coffee shops. The "coffee with elected official" trend seems to be ubiquitous -- and maybe there's a good reason. But...I'll get back to that in a few paragraphs.
See, this post was meant to be a humorous collection of some of the quirky news stories that have mentioned coffee in the last couple of weeks. There's definitely plenty to choose from. There's the guy whose Tweets about the bad coffee being served to the jury helped get a death row sentence overturned. And the convenience store clerk who foiled a robbery by throwing a pot of coffee at him. And then I went looking for a photo of coffee and a newspaper to head up the post and found myself on a whole different tack.
See, the photo I found was the one accompanying this post, and the headline piqued my interest so I went looking for the study mentioned in it, the one that says people holding warm coffee are more generous. Turns out the report was published in Science magazine in 2008. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder (Leeds School of Business) did an experiment where they had people hold either a hot cup of coffee or a cold coffee while asking them to describe a stranger they'd just met.
The results? The subjects holding hot coffee nearly always viewed the stranger more positively than those who held an iced coffee. More specifically, the researchers asked them to describe the stranger as friendly/unfriendly, happy/unhappy, generous/ungenerous, as well as other personality traits that had nothing to do with warmth or friendliness. There was no difference in the way the subjects judged others on those other traits -- but people holding hot coffee saw others as significantly nicer than the people holding cold coffee.
In a related experiment, psychologists tested whether people who held warm things (in this case, a hand warmer) were more generous than people who held cold things (an ice pack.) They thought they were doing marketing research for a new product. When they were told that as a thanks for participating, they could either choose a gift certificate for a friend or a gift for themselves, the group that were holding hand warmers were far more likely to choose the gift certificate for a friend. So holding a warm cup of coffee not only makes you see the world through rosier glasses, it makes you a nicer person.
Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who hangs around a warm, cozy coffee house. We all know that the pouring of coffee tends to lubricate conversation and social contact. For some people, it even leads to more, like the couple in Oklahoma who got married in the *bux coffee shop where they met. But it leaves me wondering just a little about all those political coffee meet-and-greets -- you think the pols are on to something?