New Study Links Light Intensity to Mood Intensity

More Light = More Emotional Intensity?

A recent study released in the the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that light intensity, has an effect on mood intensity.  The results of the study showed that feelings of warmth were correlated with brightness of light, even when the temperature of the room stayed the same, and brightness of light was linked with intensity of mood. 

For instance, in one experiment researchers rated participant’s feelings toward a positive or negative word, the attractiveness of a person, and the spiciness of a sauce.  The study showed that under bright light conditions, participants felt that positive words were more positive, negative words were more negative, spicy sauce was spicier, and people were more attractive. Essentially, researchers have concluded that bright light has both a positive and negative effect on intensity of emotion. 

We propose that turning on the light can turn on the hot emotional system. Across six studies we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases the intensity of their affective response, including sensation seeking from spicy-hot foods, perception of aggression and sexiness (“hotness”) in others, and generating more extreme affective reactions toward positive and negative words and drinks. We suggest that these effects arise because light underlies perception of heat, and perception of heat can trigger the hot emotional system. Thus, turning down the light, effortless and unassuming as it may seem, can reduce emotionality in everyday decisions, most of which take place under bright light.

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