Crime dramas frequently depict detectives interrogating suspected criminals under bright lights to get the truth out of them. Now, a new study may lend credence to this tactic, as it suggests human emotion – both positive or negative – is experienced more intensely under bright lights.
The research, conducted by investigators from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada and Northwestern University in Illinois, was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
In a total of six studies – under different lighting conditions – the team asked participants to rate several things, including spiciness of chicken wing sauce, aggressiveness of a fictional character, feelings about certain words, how attractive someone was and the taste of two juices.
Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, says previous studies have shown that people are more optimistic about the stock market, report higher well-being and are more helpful during sunny days, whereas being exposed to gloomy days for long periods of time can result in depressive feelings.
However, she and her team observed something else:
“Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed,” she says, referring to suicide rates peaking during the sunshine of late spring and summer.
The results of this latest study show that emotions are experienced more intensely under bright lights.
For example, in the brighter room, participants wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, felt the fictional character was more aggressive, found the women more attractive and felt better about positive words and worse about negative words.
Additionally, the participants drank more of the “favorable” juice and less of the “unfavorable” juice.
Because most everyday decisions are made under bright light, the researchers say their findings suggest that turning down the light may allow us to make more rational decisions or settle negotiations in a better way.
They say the reason emotions are more intense under bright lights may be because light is perceived as heat, and the perception of heat can trigger emotions.
“Bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people,” Xu explains, and adds that this effect may be stronger on brighter days during midday when sunlight is at its strongest.
She also says their findings could benefit marketers, who could adjust lighting levels in retail environments, depending on the products for sale:
“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.”
This is not the first study to assess how different environmental factors can affect our perspectives. Medical News Today recently wrote about a study that suggested paranoia increases when viewing situations from a lower height.
And another recent study found that eye movement speed is linked to impulsive decision making.