Lightbulb moments of creativity are kind of amazing. You're in the shower or taking a walk or folding laundry, and then BAM! A great idea drops out of the sky. It's like winning a mini creativity lottery. And it feels fantastic.
If you love lightbulb moments as much as I do, I think you'll be excited about a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. It showed there's a simple way to make these lightbulb moments of creativity more likely: dim the lights. Here's what you need to know.
- Researchers conducted a series of experiments to explore the impact that darkness has on creativity. In one study, participants were divided up into three different groups. The first group was placed in a dimly lit room (imagine a dark room with a single small reading lamp), the second in a normally lit room (imagine a typically lit coffee shop), and the third in a brightly lit room (imagine a brightly lit jewelry store). Each group was then given brain teasers that required creative insight (lightbulb moments) to solve.
- In analyzing the scores of individuals in different groups, researchers reached a clear conclusion: darkness improves creativity. Individuals who worked in dark rooms had more creative insights than individuals who worked in well-lit rooms.
- If you're trying to turn up your creative wattage, try turning down the lights. As this study shows, it's easier to spark a lightbulb moment in the dark. But why is that?
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
The study's researchers have a theory for why darkness encourages creativity. And that theory starts with a simple idea: darkness encourages risky behavior.
Darkness makes us more willing to take risks because we feel more anonymous and safe from judgment.
When it comes to creativity specifically, darkness encourages an experimental processing style. Risky thinking leads to more creative insight, and risky thinking is more likely in the dark.
Darkness has such a strong impact on processing style that individuals didn't even need to be in a dark room to experience its positive creative effects. In another one of the experiments run for this study, researchers just asked participants to think about a time they had been in a dark location and what being in that location felt like before completing a creativity test.
Even the participants who just thought about darkness saw a jump in their creativity.
This study's conclusions are clear and persuasive. Darkness can be a powerful tool for those looking to boost their creativity and have more lightbulb moments.
Next time you're feeling blocked, try turning up your creativity by turning out the lights.