Bright Lights = Bad Decisions

lightsIt’s not news that your environment impacts how you feel. In cooler temperatures people tend to feel more calm and collected, and are able to feel empathetic with other’s emotions, while on hot summer days you might feel more easily agitated. It’s also well-documented that lack of sunshine in the winter can affect people’s moods. But now researchers have explored the connection between exposure to light and decision making. Typically when someone dims the lights, it’s to create a certain ambience – in a restaurant or in a home – that feels closer, more romantic. Yet a recent study has shown that lowering bright lights can help people to make more rational (read – less emotionally charged) decisions.

Exposure to bright lights turns on the hot emotional system, which can make reactions more extreme. In the study, participants were placed in two scenarios. In one experiment, people were participants in a script with an aggressive character. When experiencing the same scenes in bright and dim lighting, participants found the character less abrasive when the lights were lower. In another experiment, participants were given a tasty juice in bright and dim lighting. They drank more of the beverage when emotions were activated by the well-lit room. The co-author of the study, Alison Jing Xu Ph.D suggests using these results to lower conflict by dimming the lights when hashing out a disagreement with a co-worker, arguing with a romantic partner, or when you are about to indulge in a sweet snack to avoid letting your emotions overrun your better judgement. And wouldn’t every workspace be a better place if we got rid of all the harsh fluorescent lighting anyhow?

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