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Higher Levels of CO2 May Diminish Decision Making Performance (2013) [pdf] (lbl.gov)
67 points by bryanrasmussen on July 10, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

Some earlier discussion: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/nk0/what_is_up_with_car... It's hard to see how these results could be possible, especially considering the broad null results from the many Navy experiments with thousands of PPMs.

What do you find impossible about the results?

While the blog post you linked to claims that the work finds "implausibly large effects", it doesn't clarify what the author finds implausible about them (and the author admits to only spending 30 minutes looking at the literature).

I would agree that the graphic in the PDF linked in this HN discussion, and in the paper referenced by the blog post you cited, uses alarmist labels (e.g., "dysfunctional" for performance scores at 25th percentile and below). However, the full version of the report, as linked by post, states that the percentiles are based on the reported scores from 20k other administrations of the test.

Therefore this report simply implies that some of the reported variation in some of the historical scores might be explained by variations in room CO2 concentrations. What's so implausible/impossible about that?

Disclaimer: I know several of the authors of this report, and have good regard for their scientific integrity, so my gut-level reaction to an undocumented accusation that their results are implausible, was skeptical.

> What do you find impossible about the results?

C-f 'gwern' for my previous comments.

What do you find impossible about the results?

The whole idea behind "breathing" is to regulate the CO2 in the blood at a very constant level. This is one of the strongest, fastest feedback loops in homeostasis. How are relatively small changes in environmental CO2 making their way into the bloodstream? Did they actually conduct blood tests to see if the test conditions were reflected in the subjects' physiology?

> The whole idea behind "breathing" is to regulate the CO2 in the blood

True, but two devil's-advocate what-ifs come to mind.

First, the system isn't so responsive to a lack of oxygen, and in many of the "low ventilation with people" scenarios, higher CO2 correlates with lower O2, because that's the conversion going on.

Second, might the body down-regulate mental resources as a response to chronically higher CO2 in the environment? As an adaptive or precautionary measure, helping keep that blood-concentration correct?

This will, of course, start to bite immediately on the margin.

If you have a poorly ventilated building, you're already at a disadvantage now with >400ppm outside air (higher in cities) than you would've been, say, 200 years ago with 280ppm air.

CO2 is absolutely a pollutant. Yes, plants like it, but we are not plants. It is a waste product, and too much of it affects mental performance.

our bodies are pretty darn good at reducing CO2 in our blood. CO2 isn't the problem for our bodies, by far.

Indeed. 400 ppm of CO2 compared to 300 is likely negligible for human respiration, compared to the 201,000 ppm O2 and 780,000 ppm N2 in the atmosphere.

0.04% vs 20% and 78%

Well, N2 molecules have very strong bonds that aren't easily broken so they ddon't tend to react with much of anything inside our bodies.

The big issue with CO2 indoors is that it is a strong indicator that airflow is poor and oxygen levels are usually low in those buildings.

Their test cases were 600 ppm, 1000 ppm, and 2500 ppm of CO2, and they found measurable differences in human performance between those.

I am curious what would happen if they dropped the CO2 concentration down to something that's less than what they see in an urban environment? Does dropping to 300 ppm or 0 ppm have any measurable benefit? Are there any downsides to breathing air with no CO2?

Well, too little carbon dioxide in the bloodstream changes the blood's pH, which is a negative. Can't tell how ambient CO2 levels affect it though.

This would be hyperventilation syndrome


CO2 is not simply a waste product we exhale, we need it for pH regulation of our blood.

"But we don't need you to 'decide' anything, in this job. We just need you to put your your weekly quota of TPS reports. So stop complaining about the open office plan the ventilation, and just as importantly, stop confusing everyone with all this nonsense science talk. And get back to work!"

I'm more concerned about classrooms. In France it's perfectly accepted to keep pupils for 4hrs in a closed classroom (except the break), especially if it's winter, because heaters are half-closed for savings. Now when I lived in Australia, vents are adequate for the size of the room, I wouldn't be surprised if it has a huge effect on population education.

So, the worse CO2 levels get, the more climate change deniers we'll have... ;-)

Even if TFA seems odd, if the population is large enough, even a marginal change in performance will have measurable total effects.

In a VC pitch, sneak in a briefcase that slowly dispenses CO2 while the founders clip their toenails.

<jedi-mind-trick> This is one of the startups you're going to invest in this cycle. </jedi-mind-trick> :)

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