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Can Dim Lighting Make Our Students More Creative?

  
  
  

student writingI work in the dark. I mean, it’s not pitch black in my office, but I only flip the switch to those eye-melting fluorescents when I absolutely have to.

It’s unusual, I know—but the fact of the matter is that I work better in dim light. I can’t think or write otherwise and according to a recent study, my quirk may actually have a drop of science to it.

According to the findings of a 2013 study by German researchers Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth, darkness may actually reduce feelings of constraint and spark creativity. Here’s what they reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology.  

One key experiment featured 114 German undergraduates who were seated in groups of two or three in a small room designed to simulate an office. The room was lit by a single fixture hanging directly over the group’s desk. The amount of illumination varied with each group: some received only 150 lux (dim light), others 500 lux (the recommended lighting level for an office), and still others 1,500 lux (bright light).

After a 15-minute acclimation period, each group was asked to work on “four creative insight problems” that required creativity to find a solution. After two minutes, groups were asked to report their level of self-assurance, how free from constraint they felt and the degree to which they felt externally controlled. Here’s what the researchers found:

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.

Interesting business. I wonder what would happen if we dimmed our classroom lights during testing, problem-solving exercises and group work. Could it make our students more creative?

To read more about Steidle and Werth’s study, you can find a summary here.

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Comments

I have always turned off the lights when I've needed my students to calm down. ANd it does calm them down and they do work productively when I do this. It is a great classroom managment trick. I never considered it as a creativity trick too.
Posted @ Friday, February 21, 2014 11:16 AM by Nothy
I know the lights bother my eyes even with the reflective coating on them. I imagine students with glasses have the same issue. So I try to keep the lights lower but often ask if they need be turned on. We have to ask our students so they will realize the need for the lights or not.
Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 12:32 PM by Carla
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