Same stimuli, different responses: a pilot study assessing air pollution visibility impacts on emotional well-being in a controlled environment

Journal Article (Journal Article)

A growing number of studies have shown that impaired visibility caused by particulate matter pollution influences emotional wellbeing. However, evidence is still scant on how this effect varies across individuals and over repetitive visual exposure in a controlled environment. Herein, we designed a lab-based experiment (41 subjects, 6 blocks) where participants were presented with real-scene images of 12 different PM2.5 concentrations in each block. Emotional valence (negative to positive) and arousal (calm to excited) were self-rated by participants per image, and the response time for each rating was recorded. We find that as pollution level increases from 10 to 260 µg/m3, valence scores decrease, whereas arousal scores decline first and then bounce back, following a U-shaped trend. When air quality deteriorates, individual variability decreases in hedonic valence but increases in arousal. Over blocks, repetitive visual exposure increases valence at a moderate pollution level but aggravates negative emotions in severely polluted conditions (> 150 µg/m3). Finally, we find females, people who are slow in making responses, and those who are highly aroused by clean air tend to express more negative responses (so-called negativity bias) to ambient pollution than their respective counterparts. These results provide deeper insights into individual-level emotional responses to dirty air in a controlled environment. Although the findings in our pilot study should only be directly applied to the conditions assessed herein, we introduce a framework that can be replicated in different regions to assess the impact of air pollution on local emotional wellbeing. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Yang, J; Gao, Q; Liu, M; Ji, JS; Bi, J

Published Date

  • February 1, 2023

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 2

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2095-221X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2095-2201

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s11783-023-1620-5

Citation Source

  • Scopus