German research has found that a darker setting can increase creative thought.

A study was conducted by Anna Steidle of the University of Stuttgart and Lioba Werth of the University of Hohenheim. The study involved six experiments. One of which consisted of 114 German undergraduates who were seated in groups of two or three in a room that simulates an office. This room was lit by a fixture hanging from the ceiling. The amount of light varied between the groups. Some received only 150 lux, others received 500 lux and the rest 1,500 lux.

After sitting in the room for 15 minutes, the participants were asked to complete some problem-solving questions. After the questions, the participants were asked to complete some problem-solving questions. After the questions, the participants were asked to write down how ‘free from constraints’ they felt as well as to what degree they felt externally controlled and their level of self-assurance.

The results showed that the groups put in to dimly lit rooms solved more problems correctly than those in brighter rooms. The darker roomed groups also reported feeling more free and less inhibited than the others.

Another experiment found that just the idea of darkness was enough to boost creativity.

In a different experiment light provided by the fixture illuminated the ceiling and walls as opposed to a more direct light. This found that in an indirect light intensity does not affect creativity.

As we all know innovation consists of generating ideas and putting them in to actions. The second requires more of an analytical way of thinking. In another experiment, it was found that more analytical questions were answered better by the groups in the brightly lit room.

In an earlier study, conducted by Michael Slepian of Tufts University, it was found that creativity was increased from the presence of a bare light bulb. It was thought that the symbolism of the light bulb is what increased creativity.

In their report Steidle and Werth wrote:

[The results] indicate that dim illumination heightens perceived freedom from constraints, which in turn improves creative performance. I’d rather suggest creating an informal and benign visual atmosphere by dimming direct light and having a light bulb somewhere in your field of vision which is turned on from time to time. As far as I understand it, the turning on of the light bulb is what primes the procedure of gaining insight.

They added:

Creativity may begin in the dark but it shouldn’t end there.

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