How Lighting Affects Purchasing Behaviour

How Lighting Affects Purchase Behaviour

Did you know that stores, restaurants, and businesses use all sorts of tricks to get you to buy more and indulge yourself? Lighting is especially effective depending on how it’s used. Along with that they also use temperature, music and scents as atmospherics to influence you in to making purchasing decisions. They affect your mood and what you might end up buying and it’s not always the most practical choice.

It’s not just an idea either, it’s been scientifically proven in a study by Kellogg School. In dimly lit places we’re more likely to choose the pleasurable choice, like the junk food, the chocolate, the cake whereas somewhere that is more brightly lit we’re more likely to make the practical choice like the healthy meal.

Darkness brings out our true desires

Image with the quote "we live in an era of consumerism and it's all desire-based consumerism and it has nothing to do with things we actually need" by singer Aloe Blacc
Desire trumps needs

In the darkness we don’t take in to consideration other people’s opinions of us as much and are more likely to do what we want. You are more you in the dark, you could say. Thus, you don’t care what other people think about what you’re doing, mostly because you feel hidden in the dark, not physically but psychologically, safer, so you do what you truly desire. In fact, you could say it’s more freeing.

In dim areas you make more indulgent and impulsive purchases, shop at a slower pace and even underestimate portion size. But in a brightly lit shop you’re prone to make more practical decisions and be more productive. High end restaurants and dessert bars along with luxury goods retailers are more likely to use dim lighting. However, healthy food shops and ones that sell practical items such as DIY tools and discount stores are more likely to use bright lighting.

If you ever went out and bought items that you weren’t intending to and didn’t need you now probably know why. It’s funny how something you wouldn’t even think about could influence your decisions so greatly.

For instance, people buy so much food in a cinema because you’re shrouded in darkness.

A workplace though should have bright lighting so that you are more practical and productive throughout the day.

True desires or practical purchases?

Shop lights
Bright lights adorn most shops today

In the research conducted to test their hypothesis they gave people a choice with different lighting to see which they’d choose. The practical chair with more back support or the hedonistic choice of a stylish chair with modest back support. The participants were also told the context it would be used either in an office (public setting) or at home (private setting).

The 103 students tested were either asked in a dimly lit room or brightly lit one. The students in the dimly lit room favoured the hedonistic stylish chair to the ones in the brightly lit room, and where it was used seem to play no part in it.

A second study was conducted with 180 people and found the same results with buying online and asking various questions in a dimly lit room vs a brightly lit one. They also found by asking them to rate statements after on a scale of 1-9 like – “I feel that nobody can tell me what to do” and “I feel I can be myself in my daily situations,” that people in the dark were more their authentic selves.

Friends can also influence

Two female friends sat on  car
Friends can play a huge part in the decision making process

In the final study with 350 online participants they did the same again, but this time some were asked to name 3 people close to them and a personal experience with each while the rest were asked to list 3 of their own facial features.

Again, the research found the same again, that the ones in the dark made the more hedonistic choice but with one exception. The ones who listed their personal experiences with close friends/family chose the more practical utilitarian choices even if they were in the dark.

When reminded of their friends, family, or social connections they no longer felt so disconnected even in the dark, so it reduced their tendency to act in a hedonistic way.

It’s interesting that just because you have thought of someone you know beforehand it could even more greatly influence your decision than the lighting could. Thus, proving that when you think someone else could have an opinion about something you might purchase that you may change your mind.

The reason consumerism is growing

Woman with shopping bags
A lot of people impulse buy and come back with this many bags

Has consumerism grown due to these tricks? Is this why as a society we are buying an ever-increasing amount of goods? Not necessarily because we want or need them but simply because we are being influenced in to purchases. Is this why we find ourselves with closets overflowing with clothes and shelves stacked to the brim with CD’s and DVD’s? Not just because they’re cheaper than ever but because of some clever trickery that most consumers don’t know about.

Armed with this information now you can maybe better your purchase decisions and save some money.

Lighting can make you happy

Smiling Girl
But lighting can make you happy and that’s good, so can shopping

But it’s not just our shopping habits that it can influence and mood while out but our mood all the time. There have been studies on how it affects productivity at work, public health and traffic safety.

Bright lights have been used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) in the dark months for a long time. It’s also been tested whether it can be used to treat depression and bipolar disorder.

In a study where some patients were treated using a bright light from 15 minutes then going up to 60 mins a day, by the sixth week nearly 70% using the bright light said they were no longer depressed whereas only 22% said they were in remission in the placebo group which used a dim red light instead.

It didn’t just affect their mood and improve it but meant they were more functional and could return to work or school, and side effects were low.


Fight Club quote image with Tyler and Jack sitting there and it says "we buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like"
My favourite movie Fight Club has a lot of great quotes about consumerism and this is one

Lighting can affect so much in our daily lives from our decisions and what we buy, to our mood and how we work. Yet it’s such a simple part of our daily lives that most people never even think about it or the influence it might have on them.

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