It’s an argument that takes place in homes and offices around the world – is it too warm or too cold?

Well a new study has turned up the heat on those who like to keep the office thermostat set to cool – by finding that women perform significantly better in cognitive tests in warmer conditions than they do when they are too cold.

Men perform better in cooler conditions; but their performance is affected to a much lesser degree.

'Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance', published in PLOS One, assessed performance in mathematical, verbal and cognitive reflection tasks under different temperatures.

While performance in cognitive reflection did not appear to be affected by temperature in either gender, women performed better in maths and verbal tasks in warmer temperatures, while the opposite was true for men.

However, the authors found that "The increase in female performance in response to higher temperature is significantly larger and more precisely estimated than the corresponding decrease in male performance."

They suggest that workplaces with employees of both genders could see an increase in overall productivity if they turned up the heat.

The study was based on a laboratory experiment, in which participants were randomly assigned to sessions where they would complete tasks in temperatures ranging between 16.19C and 32.57C.

Participants were all recruited from universities in Berlin. While this means they were not representative of the wider population in terms of age and education level, it also means they were similar in terms of cognitive ability.

They were asked to perform tasks within a set time frame. In the mathematical component, there were 50 problems, with five minutes available to complete the task.

In the verbal section, participants had five minutes to build as many words as possible from a set of letters.

In both instances, only correct answers were rewarded.

Women's improved performance in warmer conditions appeared to be largely due to an increase in the number of the answers they submitted, with the error rate remaining broadly consistent.

The researchers interpreted this as meaning that women made more effort when working in warmer conditions, accounting in part for their better performance.

The full study can be read here.