Turn Down the Lights and Turn Up the Creativity

Posted on October 24, 2016 by RSW

Have you ever walked into a coworker’s office and notice that they have the lights turned off? For many of us, it’s a natural tendency to want turn the lights on. After all, we’ve been told all our life that reading in the dark can harm your eyes.

Before you flip on that light switch, you might want to consider the following. Recent studies in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show that dim lighting can actually boost creativity.


Check out these awesome aliens from the Dim Lighting Contest winner Luke Rathbun, age 11.

According to authors Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth, the study was “driven by the notion that employee creativity fosters organizational productivity.” In addition to studying personal and situational factors, the report studied how aspects of the physical environment, especially light, can support creativity.

A number of experiments were preformed on students, where they were asked to solve different creative problems. In one task, participants were instructed to imagine they were visiting a planet very different from earth and to draw a picture of an alien creature that is native to this planet. An equal mix of students performed the exercise in dim light, neutral light similar to that of an average office light, and bright light.

From these exercises, the creative performance was evaluated using complex criteria, including the similarity of the alien they drew to something indigenous to earth. For example, an alien with five legs and no eyes scored higher than an alien with two legs and two eyes.

The findings? Participants asked to do the exercise in dim lighting generated more creative ideas than those in neutral and bright lighting. In addition, those asked to think about being in dim light also performed better. When asked why, the authors noted that the study showed that “darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggered a risky, explorative processing style.”

To test this, we dimmed the lights at RSW for one-half day, during which time we wrote this blog, designed the masthead, and sketched the illustrations below. What do you think? Tell us how we did by leaving a comment below.

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