THE EFFECTS OF LIGHT AND EMOTIONS
To understand the effect light has on humans, we must first differentiate between three different influencing factors that light has on us: the visual effect, physical perception and the time of day.
Visual perception describes the purely objective physiological visual process. Simply put: Light stimulus hits the photoreceptors of the eye and is processed via the optic nerve in the brain. The general rule is: the brighter the surroundings, the better human visual performance.
The second factor, physical perception, describes whether or not this feels good. The subjective perception and evaluation of the lighting, as well as of the overall impression, is individual for each person. However, visual comfort is generally crucial, e.g. when we think about workplace and changing room lighting. Light that is glaring, too bright and too cold is generally perceived as unpleasant and has a negative impact on well-being and mood. A lack of lighting, on the other hand, leads to poor visibility and can even make people feel frightened or aggressive. (For real lighting nerds: Lighting researcher, Kruithof, discovered the subjective perception and effect of light in 1941 and developed the Kruithof curve. This shows the normal distribution of the evaluation of light intensity and colour and is still valid to this day).
The third factor is the circadian influence, also called the “internal clock” – and this effect will probably be known to anyone that has tried to sleep in bright light at night. We perceive the influence of light differently depending on the time of day, but it is scientifically proven that bright, cold light has more of an “activating” and impersonal effect, while warm, subdued lighting promotes the release of melatonin, feels more intimate and makes us feel sleepy and cosy.
In summary, we can see that light is always perceived in a subjective way, particularly because different people associate different expectations and messages with lighting. For example, cosiness is linked with more of a subdued, warm light. Lighting can therefore also influence human behaviour: Areas that need to attract attention are usually given good, focused and high-quality lighting, while the darker corners remain largely unnoticed. Luxury products are illuminated in a different way to discounted goods. A pleasant, well thought out lighting concept is therefore a key factor for buying behaviour and purchase decisions.