February 21, 2014
Bright Lights Can Influence Rational Decision Making
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
“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,” Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of management at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said in a statement. “Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed.”
The team asked participants to rate a range of things, including 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. During the experiment the participants were placed under different light settings.
The researchers wrote in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that under bright lights, the participants’ emotions were more intense. They saw that in brighter rooms the volunteers wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, thought the fictional character was more aggressive, found women more attractive, felt better about positive words and worse about negative ones, and drank more of the “favorable” juice of the two.
According to Xu, the effect that bright light may have on our emotions could be the result of it being perceived as heat, and the perception of heat can trigger some stronger emotions.
“Bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people,” she says.
The team pointed out that the majority of everyday decisions are being made under bright lights, such as in an office. They suggest turning down the light to potentially help make more rational decisions that aren’t as much based on emotion.
“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.”
She said that the effect is likely to be stronger on brighter days around noon when the sun is at its highest in the sky, as well as in geographic regions that experience sunnier days rather than cloudier days.