New research shows the way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions

February 20, 2014

The next time you want to turn down the emotional intensity before making an important decision, you may want to dim the lights first.

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of management at UTSC and the Rotman School of Management, along with Aparna Labroo of Northwestern University, conducted a series of studies to examine the unusual paradox of lighting and human emotion.

"Other evidence shows that on sunny days people are more optimistic about the stock market, report higher wellbeing and are more helpful while extended exposure to dark, gloomy days can result in seasonal affective disorder," says Xu. "Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed," she says, pointing to peaks in suicide rates during late spring and summer when sunshine is abundant.

Xu and Labroo asked participants to rate a wide range of things--the spiciness of chicken-wing sauce, the aggressiveness of a fictional character, how attractive someone was, their feelings about specific words, and the taste of two juices--under different lighting conditions.

The results: under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely. In the brighter room participants wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, thought the fictional character was more aggressive, found the women more attractive, felt better about positive words and worse about negative words, and drank more of the "favourable" juice and less of the "unfavourable" juice.

Xu says the effect bright light has on our emotional system may be the result of it being perceived as heat, and the perception of heat can trigger our emotions. "Bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people," she says.

The majority of everyday decisions are also made under bright light. So turning down the light may help you make more rational decisions or even settle negotiations more easily.

"Marketers may also adjust the lightening levels in the retail environment, according to the nature of the products on sale," says Xu. "If you are selling emotional expressive products such as flowers or engagement rings it would make sense to make the store as bright as possible."

Xu notes the effect is likely to be stronger on brighter days around noon when sunlight is the most abundant and in geographic regions that experience sunnier rather than cloudier days.
-end-
The research is published in the current edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

University of Toronto

Related Management Articles from Brightsurf:

Cannabis use for menopause symptom management
CLEVELAND, Ohio (September 28, 2020)--As legislation relaxes regarding cannabis, it is being used to manage numerous chronic health conditions and mood symptoms.

A new strategy for the management of inflammatory pain
A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin has discovered a new mechanism of long-lasting pain relief.

Big ideas in performance management 2.0
Industrial-era performance management paradigms and practices are outdated and ineffective in the modern VUCA work environment.

Water management grows farm profits
A study investigates effects of irrigation management on yield and profit.

What we can learn from Indigenous land management
First Nations peoples' world view and connection to Country provide a rich source of knowledge and innovations for better land and water management policies when Indigenous decision-making is enacted, Australian researchers say.

Study changes guidelines for sepsis management
University of Arizona Health Sciences researcher ends debate among physicians regarding sepsis management.

Native approaches to fire management
In collaboration with tribes in Northern California, researchers examined traditional fire management practices and found that these approaches, if expanded, could strengthen cultures and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Northern California.

Is wildfire management 'for the birds?'
Spotted owl populations are in decline all along the West Coast, and as climate change increases the risk of large and destructive wildfires in the region, these iconic animals face the real threat of losing even more of their forest habitat.

More woodland management needed to help save dormice
Managing woodlands to a greater extent could help stop the decline of Britain's dormice, new research suggests.

The surgical management of Ebstein anomaly
In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications (Volume3, Number 1, 2018, pp. pp.

Read More: Management News and Management Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.