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Cuffing in the Cold, Part I

Cuffing, its purpose, and embodied cognition

Courtesy of Pexels
Source: Courtesy of Pexels

Cuffing Season

The term “cuffing season” has become more prominent in recent years. So what exactly does it mean? Basically the winter, a time in which it is simply too cold to venture outdoors, is also a time in which people desire to “cuff” themselves to, or secure a romantic partner.

Urban Dictionary defines “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” (Urban Dictionary, 2011). Finding a partner to spend time indoors, and in the warmth with, becomes of utmost importance. This relationship helps the person get through the cold winter months.

There are many hypotheses as to why cuffing season exists, ranging from the urge to have a partner during the holiday season to changes in serotonin levels. It is also believed that the change in weather leading to indoor activities may create a desire for a person to settle down and find a partner to spend time with (Lehmiller, 2017).

Embodied Cognition

Being that this term 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 (Williems, & Francken, 2012). Embodied cognition demonstrates that social experiences are not independent of physical and somatic perception.

Zhong and Leonardelli (2008) have highlighted the connection between temperature and our cognitions and note that there is a bidirectional relationship between the two. Certain situations are described using temperature concepts and terms as a result of our perceptions of them. Conversely, temperature affects how we view interpersonal situations (Zhong, & Leonardelli, 2008). For example, we might describe someone who is kind and generous as warm and a person who is standoffish as cold. Describing the reverse of this temperature and perception relationship, being in a hot or cold room can influence the type of perceptions we have about people.

Zhong and Leonardelli (2008), in their work on embodied cognition, have shown that emotional experiences can influence physical sensations. In two experiments with college students, the aforementioned researchers found that people literally felt cold or preferred warm food when they experienced being socially excluded, demonstrating that feelings of isolation led people to seek warmth.

In a more recent series of studies, Hong and Sun (2012) set out to determine if physical coldness activates the motivation to seek psychological warmth. They noted that this desire may manifest itself in other ways, and found that physical coldness led to a preference for romantic movies.


Being that our environmental experiences can influence our cognitions 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.

Despite the growing number of articles in which the term cuffing season has popped up, there is a lack of academic research exploring this idea. A study which set out to ascertain whether or not this pop psychology term describes an actual phenomenon was conducted and will be discussed in my next cuffing article. Stay tuned….


Cuffing season. (2011). In Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from Cuffing+Season

Hong, J., & Sun, Y. (2012). Warm it up with love: The effect of physical coldness on liking of romance movies. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), 293-306.

Lehmiller, J. (2017). Why this week is a Tinder feeding-frenzy. Retrieved from article/why-this-week-is-a-tinder-feeding-frenzy

Williems, R. M., & Francken, J. C. (2012). Embodied cognition: Taking the next step. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-3.

Zhong, C., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2008). Cold and lonely: Does social exclusion literally feel cold? Psychological Science, 19, 838-842.