By the addition of externally added elastic loads at both functional residual capacity (FRC) and increased lung volume, increased respiratory muscle effort, tension, and breathlessness were induced in normal subjects. The magnitude of each of these sensations was estimated using the psychophysical technique of category scaling (Med. Sci. Sports Exercise 14: 377-381, 1982). The tidal volume, inspiratory time, and breathing frequency were kept constant to avoid variability in sensation due to these factors. The perceived magnitude of effort and breathlessness increased significantly as the inspiratory pressure and lung volume increased (P less than 0.05). The magnitude of perceived tension increased as the inspiratory pressure increased (P less than 0.05) but not as lung volume increased. To validate these results, the subjects estimated the perceived magnitude of a series of static inspiratory occlusion pressures at both lung volumes using open-magnitude scaling and sensory matching. The perceived magnitude of effort increased significantly as the pressure increased and as the lung volume increased (P less than 0.05). To match the perceived effort required to produce the target pressures at FRC, the subjects reproduced pressures. These were not significantly different. However, to match the effort required to produce the target pressures at increased lung volume, the pressures reproduced at FRC were significantly greater (P less than 0.05). The results suggest that the sensations of breathlessness and effort are psychophysically the same, whereas tension is perceived by a different sensory mechanism.