Why Do We Love a Good Fire in the Fireplace?

I am one of those people who loves a good fire in the fireplace. I am certainly not alone. A crackling fire has an almost magic power to draw us in.

My first fire in the fireplace of our Pasadena home
My first fire in the fireplace of our Pasadena home

Now part of that magic has been documented through a study published in a recent edition of the journal, Evolutionary Psychology. The title of this article says it all: “Hearth and Campfire Influences on Arterial Blood Pressure: Defraying the Costs of the Social Brain through Fireside Relaxation.” Christopher Dana Lynn, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama, studied what happens to human beings who sit by a fire. He found measurable decreases in blood pressure, which are even greater with longer exposure.

Curiously, Lynn also found that watching a fire without sound, on a computer screen, for example, does not have a calming effect. In fact, he wonders if the sound of a fire might actually be “more influential than the visual component.” This remains to be tested.

Now, to be sure, part of the magic of a fire is visual. We love to watch it dance and swirl. Add in the sound and you’re on your way to blood-pressure lowering calm, not to mention visual delight.

So, if you’re feeling a little tense today, go sit by a fire!

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