Impact of interpretation of perceived air quality on reaction to the perceived air quality

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, January 2019, Volume 2, #40

Have you ever wondered what makes human react to indoor air quality (IAQ) condition in certain ways? To better understand the answer to this question, an understanding of what drives human behaviour/reaction is essential. Knowledge or assumption drives human thinking, while thinking drives human behaviour/reaction. It is possible for two people to perceive air quality the same way but react to it differently. For example, the perceived fragrance from perfume or air freshener by someone with knowledge of indoor air chemistry and its health implications could be interpreted as a health risk, while someone with no knowledge about the subject could interpret the same fragrance as a sign of good IAQ. The difference in the perception interpretation could determine the difference in how these people react to the perceived IAQ condition. Even when two people perceive air quality to be unacceptable, their reaction to the perception will be a function of how they consciously or sub-consciously interpret the perception with respect to their health or effort, cost or time required to rectify the air quality problem.

It is important to note that two layers of interpretation occur when an individual is exposed to air. The first interpretation is the judgment of the air by the sensor – nose. This is known as perception. The second layer of interpretation is what I called perception interpretation. It is the second interpretation that drives the human reaction, not the first one. Most studies in the literature focused on the first interpretation – perception. Perception on its own says very little about the human reaction.

So, what does this understanding mean to practice? How can this understanding be useful for facility managers to provide healthy IAQ for building occupants? What kind of feedback should be collected from building occupants in order to provide healthy IAQ for them?

40_paq interpretation_iac 40Do you want to know more about the need for better understanding of human perceived air quality interpretation? Read Langer et al. (2017) paper.

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