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Int J Biometeorol. 2012 Nov;56(6):1055-64. doi: 10.1007/s00484-011-0519-1. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

The use of language to express thermal sensation suggests heat acclimatization by Indonesian people.

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Environmental Ergonomics Laboratory, Department of Human Science, Kyushu University, 4-9-1, Shiobaru Minami-ku, Fukuoka, Japan.


The purpose of this study was to explore whether there is evidence of heat acclimatization in the words used to express thermal sensation. A total of 458 urban Japanese and 601 Indonesians participated in a questionnaire. In addition, in a preliminary survey, 39 native English speakers in the UK participated. Our results showed that (1) for Indonesians, the closest thermal descriptor of a feeling of thermal comfort was 'cool' (75%) followed by 'slightly cool' (7%), 'slightly cold' (5%) and 'cold' (5%), while Japanese responses were distributed uniformly among descriptors 'cool', 'slightly cool', 'neither', 'slightly warm', and 'warm'; (2) the closest thermal descriptors of a feeling of discomfort for Indonesians were less affected by individual thermal susceptibility (vulnerability) than those for Japanese; (3) in the cases where 'cool' and 'slightly cold' were imagined in the mind, the descriptors were cognized as a thermal comfortable feeling by 97% and 57% of Indonesians, respectively; (4) the most frequently voted choice endorsing hot weather was 'higher than 32°C' for Indonesians and 'higher than 29°C' for Japanese respondents; for cold weather, 'lower than 15°C' for Japanese and 'lower than 20°C' for Indonesians. In summary, the descriptor 'cool' in Indonesians connotes a thermally comfortable feeling, but the inter-zone between hot and cold weather that was judged in the mind showed a upward shift when compared to that of Japanese. It is suggested that linguistic heat acclimatization exists on a cognitive level for Indonesians and is preserved in the words of thermal descriptors.

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