Bright versus Dim: Enhancing Mental Performance with Light

3.9 based on 18 ratings

Updated on Feb 26, 2014

Grade Level: 6th to 8th; Type: Social Science

This experiment will evaluate if the lighting in a room affects the speed at which test subjects perform mental tasks.

  • Does lighting affect mental performance?

Your work environment can have a major impact on your ability to concentrate and work productively. In this experiment, you will investigate how the lighting in a room affects the speed and accuracy of test subjects that have been asked to perform several mental tasks.

  • One small room with bright fluorescent lighting
  • One small room with dim lamp lighting
  • Approximately 20 test subjects
  • Several mental tasks (eg, medium level Sudoku puzzle, 50 piece puzzle, multiplication test, etc)
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Notebook for analyzing results

  1. Put together several mental tests to give to your test subjects in each environment. Make sure that each task that you put together can be easily altered between environments. You want the test to look different to your test subjects each time they take it (try not to alter the difficulty of each test when you revise them).
  2. Set up a dimly lit room. This room should be bright enough to allow your test subjects to easily see their tests.
  3. Record the time it takes for 10 of your test subjects to perform each mental task in the dim room. Evaluate test subjects individually so that you can get an accurate time for each participant.
  4. Locate a room with very bright, fluorescent lighting.
  5. Repeat step 3 in the brightly lit room with your other 10 test subjects.
  6. The next day, repeat steps 2 and 3. This time, the group that worked in the dimly lit room the day before should be tested in the brightly lit room.
  7. Each time you switch rooms, remember to slightly alter your mental tasks so that they appear “new” to your test subjects.
  8. Repeat steps 4 and 5. The group that worked in the brightly lit room the day before should now be tested in the dimly lit room.
  9. Analyze your results. Compare test subjects’ performances in the dim and bright environments. In which environment did your test subjects perform each mental test fastest? What percentage of test subjects performed their tasks fastest in the bright environment? How is the accuracy of the tasks completed in each group? Does low lighting appear to enhance or slow the speed at which tasks are completed?

Terms/Concepts: work environment, what affects work efficiency?

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