Many researchers have already attempted to model vasoconstriction responses, commonly using the mathematical representation proposed by Stolwijk (1971 NASA Contractor Report CR-1855 (Washington, DC: NASA)). Model makers based the parameter values in this formulation either on estimations or by attributing the difference between their passive models and measurement data fully to thermoregulation. These methods are very sensitive to errors. This study aims to present a reliable method for determining physiological values in the vasoconstriction formulation. An experimental protocol was developed that enabled us to derive the local proportional amplification coefficients of the toe, leg and arm and the transient vasoconstrictor tone. Ten subjects participated in a cooling experiment. During the experiment, core temperature, skin temperature, skin perfusion, forearm blood flow and heart rate variability were measured. The contributions to the normalized amplification coefficient for vasoconstriction of the toe, leg and arm were 84%, 11% and 5%, respectively. Comparison with relative values in the literature showed that the estimated values of Stolwijk and the values mentioned by Tanabe et al (2002 Energy Build. 34 637-46) were comparable with our measured values, but the values of Gordon (1974 The response of a human temperature regulatory system model in the cold PhD Thesis University of California, Santa Barbara) and Fiala et al (2001 Int. J. Biometeorol. 45 143159) differed significantly. With the help of regression analysis a relation was formulated between the error signal of the standardized core temperature and the vasoconstrictor tone. This relation was formulated in a general applicable way, which means that it can be used for situations where vasoconstriction thresholds are shifted, like under anesthesia or during motion sickness.