We have all experienced, either consciously or subconsciously, the different effects that lighting can have on us: the disco light ball enhances the upbeat feeling we get on the dance floor, an entirely different atmosphere is created by a candle lit dinner. However, have you thought that lighting can affect your performance significantly?
In a study published in the journal Optics Express, Kyungah Choi and Hyeon-Jeong Suk look at the way lighting can boost student success in the classroom.
In the preliminary and main study, Choi and Suk examined the effects of different correlated color temperatures (CCTs). The CCT characterizes the color of a given light source. A low CCT gives out a light that appears “warm” or yellowish white. A high CCT gives out a light that appears “cool” or bluish white.
The Preliminary Study
In the preliminary study that was conducted in a laboratory using adult volunteers, Suk and Choi examined the effects of different CCT lighting conditions on the adults’ levels of physiological alertness. They did this by taking an electrocardiogram (ECG), a type of measurement that is affected by the alerted state of a person. The study took place in a room that had an LED luminous ceiling. The researchers could control the CCTs of the lighting.
It was found that the 6500 K lighting condition caused the highest level of physiological alertness, and that the 3500 K condition caused the volunteers to feel the most relaxed.
In the main study, Choi and Suk studied two classrooms of fourth-grade students. The students were taking math tests. In one classroom, there were LED lights that could be tuned to a CCT of 3500 K (a “warm” or yellowish white light), 5000 K (a neutral light), and 6500 K (a “cool” or bluish white light akin to natural daylight). The other classroom was fitted with standard fluorescent lights — this classroom acted as the control.
The students achieved the best math test scores when they worked under the 6500 K lighting condition. When they were exposed to 3500 K lighting, they performed best on recess activities.
“The preliminary study and the field experiment fully supported a positive effect of 6500 K lighting on academic performance and 3500 K lighting on encouraging recess activities,” said Choi.
The students were also interviewed by the researchers to see if they noticed any changes in the lighting and/or their academic success.
According to Suk, “We were surprised by the fact that besides observing the performance improvement during the mathematical test, the interview results with young children — who have almost no background knowledge on lighting — were also in line with our empirical results.” Based on this information, Suk stated “This shows that the effect of lighting was direct and intuitive and that anyone, regardless of age or level of knowledge, could experience and be aware.”
Conclusion and Suggestions
The researchers came to the conclusion that the 6500 K “cool” light may be used to support a student’s learning during intensive academic activities, the 5000 K neutral light is good for reading activities, and the 3500 K “warm” light can be used to create a relaxed atmosphere that may be used when a recess activity is taking place.
Lighting may thus prove to be a useful tool in the classroom. A teacher can better control the mood of the class and the learning environment if he or she has the ability to adjust the lights as they see appropriate. This may be a real possibility as the research team have created a mobile-app-based dynamic lighting system that allows one to choose the lighting conditions of “easy,” “standard,” and “intensive”.