IFAI’s Pre-Expo Conference Oct. 15 in Dallas offered a range of presentations—many of them focused on topics of particular interest in the advanced textiles area. Textile testing is one topic that will be addressed in more than one session.
At the beginning of his talk yesterday on testing and evaluating fabrics’ human comfort, performance and health, Dr. Emiel DenHartog, North Carolina State University (NC State), provided a definition of comfort as “a condition of the mind that expresses satisfaction with the environment.” In setting up tests to evaluate human comfort, DenHartog identifies three key areas: physics, physiology and psychology. The first two of these are clearly measurable: temperature, humidity, pressure, forces, shivering, sweating, skin blood flow, heart rate, body temperature and sweat sensations. As humans, we are really good at these. But if we really want to know comfort we have to delve into human psychology, which is much more individual and less clearly defined—or measurable.
Psychology, in this case, includes factors such as appreciation, expectations, knowledge and motivation. This last criteria Is particularly tricky, as Dr. DenHartog points out: “If people are motivated in a task it can override their perception of comfort and give a false reading.”
This is an issue that goes far beyond clothing for first responders or military personnel—just think of the last time that you stood up from your computer only to realize you had been in the same position for too long and now had a painful neck or shoulder. Testing needs to be reducible, reliable, accurate and precise. In determining shoe and apparel sizing a consensus is reached, but taking account of human psychology remains a challenge—one to which Dr. DenHartog is giving serious attention.