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Influence of Dispositional and Situational Factors on Human Perceptions of Fire Risk



Isaac T. Leventon, Justin W. Bonny


Studies of human behavior during emergencies have observed that when presented with situational cues that a hazard may be present, humans can fail to act on this information in a timely manner. Models of human behavior in response to fire-related emergencies explicitly account for potential delays in identifying and acting on the presented risk of a fire. Protective action decision models incorporate the tendency of individuals to notice an aberrant signal, but fail to recognize the cue as indicative the need to evacuate, until it has become more salient. Past research has also indicated that variations in the disposition of individuals, such as psychological traits, can also influence responses to emergencies. The present study examines the extent to which responses to images of growing room fires were influenced by situational and disposition factors. Participants judged whether words reflecting normalcy, risk, or protective action applied to images of room fires that varied in intensity. Psychophysical models of responses revealed, as the visual extent of the fires increased, deviation from normalcy words were first reliably judged to apply, then risk, and finally protective action, in line with models of human evacuation behavior. Although individual differences in dispositional traits, such as temperament, were not significantly related to performance, the presence of moderate correlations and small sample size suggests future studies with greater statistical power may observe such relations. Results of the current study also lend support to the presence of a normalcy bias: even though participants noticed the small fires and identified the scene as abnormal, they did not reliably view them as a risk until they grew larger. Furthermore, in line with evacuation models, once participants judged the fire cues to be a risk, fire size further increased before participants judged a protective action was applicable.
Proceedings Title
Interflam 2019
Conference Dates
July 1-3, 2019
Conference Location


Leventon, I. and Bonny, J. (2020), Influence of Dispositional and Situational Factors on Human Perceptions of Fire Risk, Interflam 2019, London, -1, [online], (Accessed June 23, 2024)


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Created June 24, 2020, Updated August 20, 2020