Wednesday, June 19, 2013

News You Can't Use: Dim Lighting Sparks Creativity

Bright light is bad. It hurts the eyes, makes it hard to fall asleep, reveals the profound ugliness of so-called "reality" and makes it much harder to get on to the "are you done yet?" In addition to these issues, it may also be the enemy of creativity, according to the latest pseudo-science to come out of a nation that fully personified evil less than a century ago.

There are certain times when you want the lights turned way down low. One such time, according to recent research, is when you need to think creatively.

Arrgghhhh, light! Get it off me, get it off! It's wrecking my creative thinking!

“Darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity,” report  Anna Steidle of the University of Stuttgart and Lioba Werth of the University of Hohenheim.

Ja, now to turn off zee lights und deploy mein efficient creativity free of "constraints." We've seen German science freed of those already and it wasn't pretty.

A dimly lit environment, they explain in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, “elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition,” all of which encourage innovative thinking.

Sounds more like the effects of inhaling a few King Cobras. Could habitual alcoholism, with a heavy focus on the so-called "cheap shit" inspire the innovations of the next century? I'm willing to study this for a very reasonable six figure fee.

After spending two minutes attempting to solve each problem, participants rated how free from constraints they felt. They noted the degree to which they felt externally controlled, and reported their level of self-assurance.

Unless you're, like, hooked to wires or something you're not being "externally controlled."

The results: Those in the dimly lit room solved significantly more problems correctly than those in the brightly lit room. They also felt freer and less inhibited than their intensely illuminated counterparts. Participants in the bright and the conventionally lit rooms did not differ significantly from one another on either scale.

From now on "dim" will describe the intelligent. I like the idea of "intensely illuminated" when there's an ordinary light bulb. "I'm baking like a Turkey here, turn it off, it's externally controlling me!"

May not contribute significantly to "self-assurance."

“These results indicate that dim illumination heightens perceived freedom from constraints, which in turn improves creative performance,” the researchers conclude. 

Support the Dark Party and our efforts to bring perceived freedom!

Don’t have a dimmer switch at your desk? No worries. Other experiments found that merely priming the idea of darkness—such as by taking five minutes to describe an experience of literally being in the dark, and recalling how it felt—was sufficient to boost creativity. 

Try to visualize, if you can, darkness. Remember how good it felt? Now...create! 

However, the darkness-spurs-innovation equation did not always hold true. In another experiment, the researchers found “the darkness-related increase in creativity disappeared when using a more informal, indirect light instead of direct light.”

Basically the problem was they were dangling a bulb over some poor German student like in one of those police interrogation rooms, while probably barking things like "achtung!" and "schnell, schnell!" I can see how that might prove an issue. 

"Sit there and start being creative. Now!" 

“Creativity may begin in the dark,” Steidle and Werth write, “but it shouldn’t end there.”

Actually in most cases it probably should.

These results would seem to contradict those of an earlier study, which found creativity is boosted by the presence in the room of a bare light bulb. However, a closer reading finds they are compatible: It was the symbolic power of the bulb (which has gone off over many a cartoon character’s head to signify a mental breakthrough) that boosted creativity, not the level of illumination in the room.

Basically if you're willing to do enough bizarre contortions and tell enough "just so" stories you can reach any crazy conclusion you want. 

So if you’re struggling to finish that screenplay or come up with the next must-have app, you might try illuminating your workspace with one bare bulb of minimal wattage. If you don’t want to be thought of as a dimbulb, perhaps the answer is a dim bulb.

Can bright light be blamed for this horrible abomination?

Update: OK, that last suggestion wasn’t as clever as I thought it was. (What can I say? I was writing in a very bright room.)


[Science 17/70] Maybe dimming the lights would make me more creative.

Komment Korner   

Generalization: Distractions inhibit creativity. Who'd a guessed it?

PS the glow from a TV is not NOT "light" it's evil!

Dim Lighting Sparks Creativity. ONLY WHEN SHE IS IN THE MOOD!

Typical liberal train of thought. "By remaining in the dark you shall be enlightened"! Just keep dreaming.

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

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