An Evolutionary Argument for the Psychological Benefits of Cryotherapy


  • Noah Smith McMaster


After immersion in cold water, many people report feeling more focused, driven, and better at sustaining attention. These reports seem confusing: why would a painful stimulus, like cold water, make us more task-oriented? Here, I provide an evolutionary argument for these reports, beginning with how painful experiences cause us to refocus our attention towards the environment. The attentional sharpening caused by pain developed in our evolutionary past: focusing on our surroundings after feeling pain may have improved survival in our evolved environment. Today, these attention-improving mechanisms still remain, even for marginally painful stimuli, such as the feeling of cold water rushing over our skin. Although cold showers might seem daunting, they may provide cognitive benefits rooted in our evolutionary past.

Author Biography

Noah Smith, McMaster

I'm a first year master's student in PNB studying human hierarchy, power, and the winner/loser effect. I enjoy writing and editing, and I have been avidly involved in PNB's 2XD3 course as both a student and TA. I've also worked as a peer-reviewer on the Arts & Science undergraduate journal Aletheia. 





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