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Hey, Brighten Up!

Turning up the lights can change your attitude, but not always the way you think

Author Jacqueline Detwiler


Most people wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they enjoy positive things more when the sun’s out. Just look at our language: We talk about “bright futures,” “sunny outlooks” and “shiny, happy people.” A new study from Alison Jing Xu and Aparna Labroo in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that the effect is even bigger than that. Across six experiments, they showed that bright light tends to amplify affective responses, both good and bad. If people like the flavor of a drink, for instance, they will enjoy it more under brighter lights, whereas those who find the drink unpleasant will say that it tastes worse in a well-lit room. Another experiment showed that the same is true when people assess aggression in others and the emotional impact of affective words. All of this leads to a scientific revelation near and dear to the hearts of those who frequent dive bars: If you’re going to drink crappy beer and get into arguments, it’s best to do it in the dark.

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