Thermal comfort sensations are often studied in isolation, with the subjects' attention specifically directed towards their evaluation, both by instructions and by the recurrent act of questioning. A closer approach to the field situation, in which room temperature is at most a background stimulus, is made possible by the method of spontaneous magnitude estimation of thermal sensation. Thirty-six male and 36 female 17-year-old subjects in standard cotton uniforms (0·7 clo) were exposed in groups of 4 in a climate chamber to patterns of changing air temperature typical of conditions in occupied classrooms. Temperatures remained within the range 20–29° C. and did not increase more rapidly than 4° C./hr. Each individual recorded his thermal sensation on a dial voting apparatus, registering changes spontaneously as a secondary task while performing mental work during three successive 50 min. periods, with 10 min. breaks between. It was thus possible to obtain a measure of the time course of thermal discomfort sensations, including the extent to which they distracted attention. Significant differences were found between the responses of males and females, males in general feeling hotter and reacting more rapidly to changes in temperature. Response distributions are given in detail.
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