Every parent, teacher, or education professional, seems to be concerned with how to make their children happier, more creative, and smarter these days. Research into how the brains of children and adolescents develop is commonplace. The recent research into how the brains of children are affected by the lighting they study and perform under is just one of the latest efforts into understanding.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea investigated the effect that various forms of lighting can have upon studying skills and general exam performance. They found that one kind of lighting in particular had a significantly positive effect in improving exam performance and memory, as reported in the journal Optics Express.
The team investigated the effect that having ‘color temperatures’ in the separate lighting conditions has in performance between the two groups. One ‘temperature colour’ was 3500 K (a warm yellow-white colour), while another was a much cooler 6500 K (blue-white, akin to natural sunlight), and another was a standard fluorescent light set up to serve as the control group for the experiment.
When researchers examined the three test groups, they found that students performed the best in terms of academic performance under the 6500 K lighting condition. However, the 3500 K lighting condition also proved to be useful and helped facilitate the encouragement of relaxation and recess activities, suggesting that dynamic lighting systems could have a multitude of benefits for students. “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,” Kyungah Choi, a PhD candidate at the institute (as well as the lead author and researcher on the study), reported in a statement.
Dr Hyeon-Jeong Suk, an associate professor at the university and co-author of the research study, commented that, “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. 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.”
The implications for this study have a significant field of interest – not only for teaching classrooms, but also for offices and other spaces where a boost in concentration could be beneficial, and where the 6500 K lighting condition could be implemented. Alternatively, Suk expanded upon the implications and potential applications of the results of the study, “Although the current research has mainly focused on the educational sector, dynamic lighting, as previously mentioned, can be employed to positively enhance users’ mood, well-being, and their health,”
The idea of using lighting as a way to enhance and promote positive behaviors ties in strongly to years of previous research indicating that changing the variables inside a subject’s physical environment can bring about positive well-being changes. The most famous example of this is research which found that painting the walls of jail cells and prisons (areas with a higher than average rate of violence) the exact shade of pink that matches Pepto-Bismol, significantly calmed down inmates and cut down on rates of violent activity.
Whether or not this research could be rolled out across a larger scale, or with a larger study remains to be seen, but the implications are positive, particularly in a culture that is extolling the virtues of a healthy physical and emotional well-being. The results also indicate the possibility of boosting brainpower and productivity. As Sun aptly commented, “Lighting, compared to numerous other facility investments to enhance such physical and mental states of humans, is highly effective in a sense that it could produce a dramatic effect with slight change.”