Seasonal impact on cognitive performance when socioeconomic environments desynchronise with natural environments: evidence from college students' academic performance
by Carol Wang; Arijit Sengupta
Interdisciplinary Environmental Review (IER), Vol. 20, No. 3/4, 2020

Abstract: A rich literature has documented the prevalence of seasonal patterns in human behaviours, the evidence on humans' cognitive seasonality, however, is rare. We investigate longitudinal data for students of a business school in North America and find that students systematically outperform in fall semesters than spring semesters, supporting the seasonal rhythms of human cognition. Further examinations reveal that the ambient temperature plays a dominant role over photoperiod for this seasonality, consistent with the evolutionary theory that humans' cognition is compromised by an energy deficit due to increased energetic demand in the process of thermoregulation, owing to humans' incomplete acclimatisation to the coldness compared to the darkness. We also address the potential energetic competition between humans' emotional and cognitive activities that may exacerbate seasonal cognitive fluctuations. Our results provide empirical evidence and shed light on the study of human cognition along with the increasing desynchronisation between socioeconomic and natural environments.

Online publication date: Fri, 22-Jan-2021

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