That because human emotions — both positive and negative — are felt more intensely under bright light, according to research from the University of Toronto Scarborough.
Alison Jing Xu, an 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 relationship between lighting and human emotion.
The researchers asked participants to rate a wide range of things — from 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.
What they found is that 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 “favorable” juice and less of the “unfavorable” juice, the researchers report.
Xu postulates that the effect bright light has on our emotions 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 said.
“Since a majority of our decisions are made under bright light, it may be that turning down the light can help you make more rational decisions or even settle negotiations more easily,” she said.
“Marketers may also adjust the lightening levels in the retail environment, according to the nature of the products on sale,” she said. “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.”
The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.