Light and You The Emotional Influence of Lighting on the Human Psyche

Tanisi Ghosh
Exhibition and Experience Design

About this Item

Light and You The Emotional Influence of Lighting on the Human Psyche
Contributor Names
Ghosh, Tanisi (Author)
Waisman, Kate (Thesis advisor)
Lyons, Christina (Thesis advisor)
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Exhibition and Experience Design (Degree granting institution)
Degree Information
M.A. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York 2023
Department: Exhibition and Experience Design
Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 85-08
Advisors: Kate Waisman; Christina Lyons
Committee members: Brenda Cowan; Brooke Carlson
Light. It's how we see and perceive everything around us. Everything begins and ends with light, whether it's seeing different colors, or experiencing complete darkness. We come across different forms of light in our daily lives, and they impact us significantly. First came natural light, boasting the power of the sun and the moon. It is no surprise that sunlight is vital to all living beings. Think of that one day when you were without any sunlight. Do you remember feeling completely disoriented and dull?
Soon enough, sunlight turned into illumination through a flame. And then came artificial light, which was a revolutionary invention for the human race. Electricity running through filaments, producing light and illuminating a room—all in a single click. Ever since I was a kid, I felt something every time I saw certain forms and temperatures of lighting. Growing up, it was difficult to know what it was about lighting that made me feel this, but I knew I was extremely fascinated by it. Soon, I started dabbling with the thought that I may not be the only one that feels this way. Pursuing higher education in design helped me lean in on the concept and importance of lighting, and pursuing a masters in spatial design convinced me that lighting can absolutely transform a space and how the visitors feel in it.
The dynamic daylight and the controlled artificial lighting are able to affect not only distinct physical measurable conditions in a space, but also to instigate and provoke different visual experiences and moods. Due to the light, it is possible to perceive different atmospheres in the same physical environment. Fontenelle observes that "Light constitutes an element of fundamental relevance for the design of spaces and therefore it plays a significant role in the discussion of quality in architecture."
Lighting serves to highlight and mark objects, reveal spatial or symbolic pathways, direct or deflect the viewer's attention toward a particular artwork's detail, and reveal the symbolic strategy and meaning trajectories planned by the artist or light designer. Light and lighting also reveal spatial or symbolic paths. A significant correlation between lighting levels and light colors, psychophysiological responses, and emotional responses by the perceivers was actually established through research using light sources of different spectrums (from natural to artificial light). Generally, a higher intensity of light stimulation corresponds to a higher level of concentration/attention, which is linked to a greater emotional response by the subject.
I was 19 when I watched my first broadway show while on a trip to New York, and watching the dynamic sets and incredibly engaging lighting changed my world. I completed my undergraduate degree in India, and worked in set design where my love for lighting expanded. My fascination with this phenomenon of lighting led to this research, and that led me to another intriguing phenomenon—the circadian rhythm. Humans are light-seeking creatures. As a result of human evolution, we have come to rely on sunlight as the main signal that controls the master clock in our brains. All biological processes, including the creation of hormones in our bodies on a daily basis, are governed by this master clock. Circadian lighting is illumination that is intended to affect the human circadian system biologically. Circadian lighting transmits signals to our internal master clock, which controls the synthesis of several hormones and instructs our bodies on what to do and when to do anything during the day and even while we sleep at night. Strong light signals to the master clock encourage greater sleep, less weariness, and better attention, all of which improve our motivation.
In this thesis, I explore how and why lighting creates an emotional impact on the human brain, how it can positively influence our minds using circadian principles; and how we can best use it as exhibition designers to give visitors an optimal experience. This study and paper is broken down into two parts. The first part highlights the development of an original thesis pertaining to the use of light as a means to impact physical and emotional wellness. The second part focuses on the development of an applied design project that utilizes this theory.
Keywords: Branded environment, Circadian rhythm, Emotions influence, Light, Lighting
Behaviorism (Psychology)
Circadian rhythms
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FIT Repository ID: etd_000962
pqdiss: 30988492
URN/ISBN: 9798381446197
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Ghosh, T. (2023). Light and You The Emotional Influence of Lighting on the Human Psyche [Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York]. FIT Institutional Repository.
Ghosh, Tanisi. Light and You The Emotional Influence of Lighting on the Human Psyche. 2023. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, Master's thesis. FIT Digital Repository,
Ghosh, Tanisi. "Light and You The Emotional Influence of Lighting on the Human Psyche." Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2023.