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Thermal comfort across the lifespan: the role of psychological adaptation

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: S3 25

Thermal environments can significantly affect human health and comfort, especially in children and older adults. Thermal comfort is a subjective status defined as the condition of mind that expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment and can be influenced by a combination of physical (e.g., temperature, humidity, clothing insulation, etc), physiological (e..g, sweating, etc) and psychological factors. However, previous thermal comfort models mainly focused on the environmental and physiological parameters, yet the psychological elements have not been investigated systematically. In particular, how psychological elements can influence thermal comfort across different age groups has not been examined at all.

In general, older people have reduced muscle strength, activity level, sweating capacity, ability to transfer heat from the body core to skin, etc. However, older people also tend to wear more clothes, and their different attitudes toward energy bills, their longer thermal experiences, their familiarity with older heating technologies etc. may all affect how they perceive thermal comfort compared to younger people. Such psychological adaptation can affect older people’s expectations and habituation and can alter their perception of thermal comfort even when the physical variables remain unchanged. The project will therefore concentrate on the role of psychological adaptation in thermal comfort such as experience, expectations, emotional state, etc., and explore the change of such roles across the lifespan.

The candidate will be expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, and develop and conduct field surveys and real-world-based or lab-based experiments using various electrophysiological devices (e.g., wearable fitness devices), to examine how individuals in different age groups respond to our thermal environment.

This research will make the first attempt to develop new knowledge on the relative impact of psychological parameters on thermal comfort sensation across different age groups. It will assess the existence and significance of age differences in thermal comfort, and identify the psychological factors that might lead to the age difference in thermal comfort. The knowledge will allow us to develop a better understanding of the interrelationship between the different parameters of psychological adaptation, compare their relative significance, and assess their design role, that is whether they could influence design decisions for different purposes.

Supervisory Team:

  • Dr. Vivienne Du
  • Dr. Richard Steel
  • Dr. Hua Zhong
  • Dr. Shen Wei (External advisor; Associate Professor at the Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL)

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

Still need help?

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