Experiments

Cold Feet

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Cold Feet"
Beyond Productions

Finding: PLAUSIBLE

Explanation: MythBusters Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara faced down their worst phobias to determine whether fear has a physiological reaction that lowers the temperature in your feet. In other words, does getting "cold feet" really make your feet, well, cold?

With heat sensors monitoring temperature fluctuations in their feet, Tory, Kari and Grant each endured a terrifying task. When heights-frightened Tory took a spin in a stunt plane, his feet cooled off by only a couple of degrees. Grant and Kari, on the other hand, had far more chilling results. While pink-toed tarantulas crawled all over arachnophobia Grant, his tootsies took a 15-degree plunge, and as Kari swallowed insects for science, her toes turned 17 degrees colder.

Those outcomes make scientific sense as well, since the body's fight-or-flight response — which kicks in when we're scared — constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow (and consequently heat) to our extremities. Although tough Tory showed that not every frightened person's feet will actually freeze up, Kari and Grant's frosty physiological reactions made the myth plausible.

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