Morgan State Receives NSF Grant to Study Human Behavioral Responses to Fire

Morgan State University has received $596,383 for a human behavior study regarding responses to environmental indications of fire, with the findings expected to help in improving fire safety systems and building design.Morgan State University

The grant – from the National Science Foundation (NSF) – is a first-of-its-kind awarded to a historically Black college or university (HBCU) through the NSF Decision, Risk and Management SciencesOffice of Integrative Activities, and HBCU Excellence in Research (EiR) integrated programs, for this type of research.

“Detecting Changes in Developing Fires and Posed Risk” – funded through June 2024 – aims to better understand human perception of budding fires, interpretation of inherent risks, and responses elicited. Study participants will be prompted to make decisions and judgements in response to software-simulated building fires.

Dr. Justin Bonny, an assistant professor of psychology in the James H. Gilliam, Jr. College of Liberal Arts at Morgan State is the principal investigator, and Dr. James A. Milke, professor and chair of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, is co-principal investigator.

"Theories of grounded cognition emphasize that how a person perceives and processes information is shaped by the environment they are within,” Bonny said. “We are applying this to fires to better understand how the same developing fire occurring in say, for example, a kitchen may be perceived differently than in a bedroom. This allows us to investigate how different properties of developing fires are connected to perception and decision-making.”