Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let there be light!

A recent study has found that brightness levels of lighting in a room have an effect on emotionality. In a nutshell, brighter light makes individuals feel emotion more strongly – on both the negative and positive sides of the spectrum. The researchers offer a very narrow interpretation of their results: if you want to make a more cool-headed decision, better turn the lights down (and, if possible, avoid neon lighting). The study, though, may have some larger implications. There have been similar findings with respect to sunlight – which could perhaps partly explain why Italians are typically more emotional and impulsive than Germans.

Montesquieu and other less enlightened bigots once believed (echoing some ancient theories) that climate has a direct effect on human character and emotional sensitivity. Now, of course, such theories are frowned upon because of their disturbing non-liberal implications. As I have noted before, though, some stereotypes may persist for a reason. And could be a bit more palatable if we kept in mind that emotional desensitization and self-restraint may come at a price – as other controversial thinkers like Nietzsche and Freud pointed out a long time ago (and Montesquieu himself partly recognized).