Light and Psychology
Brightness, Saturation and Hue
These are the three main qualities of light in relation to color. Brightness is the amount of light given off by a light source, usually expressed in lumens or lux. Some studies have shown that brighter light can intensify emotions, while low light doesn’t remove emotions, but keeps them steady. This can lead to people having the ability to make more rational decisions in low light and find it easier to agree with others in negotiation.
Saturation is the intensity of a color. More saturated hues can have amplifying effects on emotions, while muted colors can dampen emotions. In art, saturation is defined on a scale from pure color (100% [fully saturated]) to grey (0%). In lighting, a similar scale can apply.
Hue is defined as a color or shade. It’s been proven (through various studies) that natural light can make you happier, but colors created by artificial light can also evoke different emotions and have other effects on the body.
Blue/white light makes us energetic and can interrupt sleep patterns if exposed to around bedtime due to the fact that blue light suppresses melatonin levels. Brain cells tend to be the most sensitive to blue wavelengths and the least sensitive to red wavelengths. Blue wavelengths can even have an impact on those who are blind when it comes to circadian rhythms.
Red/amber light is the least likely hue of light to impact our internal clocks. Red light in the evening can help improve mental health. This is because red light in the evening helps increase the secretion of melatonin which leads to better sleep at night. Better sleep at night leads to improved cognition and overall mental wellbeing.
Circadian rhythm is our internal clock. It influences melatonin secretion, cortisol activity and alertness. As you learned in the previous section, blue light suppresses levels of melatonin, helping us stay awake and alert, while red light increases levels of melatonin, helping our bodies get ready for bed.
When there is a lack of melatonin, people can encounter sleep problems that can eventually lead to behavioral changes. To sustain healthy levels, stay away from blue-hued light towards the end of the day or when you are preparing to go to sleep. This will help levels of melatonin rise, giving you a better night’s sleep.
Circadian rhythms can also affect the limbic system. This system regulates a person’s feelings of happiness, sadness, anger and other emotions. A disrupted rhythm can negatively affect these emotions and more.