As if you need another reason to hate those buzzing office fluorescents. Some new research has shown that, if you need a little extra creativity to think through a problem, turn the lights low, or better yet, turn them off.
Writing in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth report that “Darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity.” (Do cubical walls count as constraints? Yes, yes they do).
The two conducted a series of experiments to support their conclusion. In one, they divided one hundred and fourteen German undergraduates into three groups and seated them in three offices. Each office received different lighting levels: 150 lux (extremely dim), 500 lux (regular office levels), and 1,500 lux (extraordinarily bright). After acclimating themselves to lighting levels, the students worked through four “creative insight problems”.
Students in the dimly lit room not only solved significantly more problems correctly, they reported feeling less inhibited and that the room had fewer constraints.
However, researchers note that innovation has two stages: generating ideas, and implementing them. Dim lighting may be conducive to generating ideas, but researchers found that analytical tasks were better served by bight light.
So, perhaps it’s a good idea to generate ideas early in the morning, with the lights off and blinds dimmed.