Air Pollution Can Impair the Cognitive Abilities

Air Pollution Can Impair the Cognitive Abilities of Even the Most Accomplished Chess Players.

Air pollution exposure might cause even the best chess players to make more errors.

That is the alarming finding of a recent study, which was released in Management Science on January 26. Despite the fact that this research may seem specialized, it has significant ramifications for anybody who breathes particulate matter (PM) pollution and their capacity for strategic thought.

According to an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sustainable Urbanization Lab and research co-author Juan Palacios, there are an increasing number of studies demonstrating the financial costs associated with air pollution, which affects an increasing number of individuals.

And this is but one illustration demonstrating that even for these extremely [great] chess players who believe they can defeat everything, it appears that air pollution is an adversary that works against them.

Air Pollution Can Impair the Cognitive Abilities

Over 30,000 chess moves from three seven-round tournaments in Germany were examined for the study by Palacios and his co-authors Nico Pestel and Steffen K nn, both associate professors at the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The competitions, which lasted eight weeks each, were held in 2017, 2018, and 2019. A total of 121 players participated.

First, throughout each of the three competitions, the researchers took readings of the venue’s temperature, carbon dioxide, and PM 2.5 levels. To find any mistakes in the players’ games, they next used software programs.

They discovered that errors occurred more frequently when PM2.5 pollution rose. According to the study’s authors, the likelihood that a player would commit a meaningful error increased by 2.1 percent for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter of concentration. After adjusting for additional variables like noise, temperature, or humidity, this was the result.

According to Palacios’ statement in the press release, these people’s performance is being driven by their pure chance exposure to air pollution. Being exposed to various air quality levels affects how well players move and make decisions when playing similar opponents in the same tournament round.

Air Pollution Can Impair the Cognitive Abilities

Additionally, air pollution made it more difficult for players to choose wisely when faced with time limits. Each participant in the competition had 110 minutes to complete their first 40 maneuvers. The researchers discovered that for moves 31 to 40, an increase in pollution of 10 micrograms per cubic meter increased the likelihood of an error to 3.2 percent.

The study is not the first to caution that brain damage from PM2.5 pollution is possible. It has been related in studies to issues with dementia and mental health. The chess community is well aware that healthier indoor air could result in more enjoyable matches.

In chess, cognition is undoubtedly crucial, and some of the best players, including Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri, have already realized how crucial air quality is, according to Leon Watson of, who spoke to The Guardian.

Players now commonly utilize [air monitors] to track their CO2 and particulate matter levels while participating in major Champions Chess Tour tournaments from home, using the information to create the ideal playing environment. As with any sport, fine margins are crucial.

Although the distinction may be slight, players will unavoidably endeavor to overcome any competitive disadvantages.

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The authors of the study believe that their findings have applications outside of the chessboard, as many companies aspire to have employees who can make wise decisions under pressure.

The findings emphasize the importance of indoor air quality for strategic decision-making, a key component of management in businesses and a crucial element impacting businesses’ ability to survive in environments that are cutthroat. K nn, Pestel, and Palacios all wrote.

Furthermore, our calculations offer convincing proof of the harms caused by inadequate air filtering in office buildings or any other indoor location where people must make strategic judgments.

The authors stated that they observed effects in a city with relatively low outdoor air pollution levels in an indoor setting. Information workers are heavily concentrated in places with far worse pollution, including South East Asia or California, where severe wildfires fuelled by climate change have rolled back improvements in air quality.

Air Pollution Can Impair the Cognitive Abilities

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They found that the existence of such environmental risks increases the necessity to protect workers from them using air filters or any other technology to improve indoor air quality where these people make decisions.

Vishal Rana

Vishal is working as a Content Editor at Enviro360. He covers a wide range of topics, including media, energy, weather, industry news, daily news, climate, etc. Apart from this, Vishal is a sports enthusiast and loves to play cricket. Also, he is an avid moviegoer and spends his free time watching Web series and Hollywood Movies.

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