The Emotional Experience: Shedding Some Light on Emotions


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According to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, people are more emotional under bright lights. So depending on what you are going for in your retail customer experience, a rational decision or an emotional one, you need to adjust your lighting to evoke the right response and deliver a better experience.

According to, The findings were the result of six different studies performed in different lighting conditions. Participants were asked about different things, attractiveness of people, the taste or spiciness of foods, or the aggressiveness of a fictional character. Then researchers analyzed their responses based on the lighting level. They found that in all cases, positive or negative, emotions were more intense under bright lights.

Researchers believe this is because light is perceived as heat and heat triggers emotions. This perception, however, is hardly of the conscious mind. It is instead a product of the subconscious mind.

I routinely do trainings on customer experience online and in person as part of my work. We have broken this down into several lessons that build upon one another so that students will have a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience and all the factors that contribute to it. One of the training modules is on the subconscious mind. I love teaching this one. So much so that I often go long on the session. That’s because the subconscious is such a fascinating part of the human mind.

Our subconscious is always at work interpreting the signals around us and sending these messages to our conscious actions. We do all of this, however, without the conscious part of our mind paying any attention. Sometimes it happens at the bank when we see pens chained to the table. Our subconscious interprets those chains as the bank saying, “we don’t trust you not to steal our pens, so we chained them here.”

Or when you walk down a darkened alley with graffiti on the walls your subconscious tells your conscious mind that you are uncomfortable because you sense that it’s dangerous here and that you could be the victim of a crime.

Or when you open a closet door at a hotel to see hangars all attached to the closet bar and hear in your mind the hotel saying, “Hello, Thief! Enjoy your stay, but leave behind our hangars, if you please.”

Our subconscious mind that makes all these interpretations for us in the above examples must also tell us that under bright lights, intense emotions are needed. So our sauce is spicier, the women and men are far more attractive and fictional characters are more aggressive as a result.

So how does this translate into customer experience? Well, since the subconscious mind accounts for over half of a customer’s experience, it is reasonable to assume that if you put bright lights on an experience that is driven by emotion, you are likely to get a more intense reaction from your clients. One of the researchers, Alison Jing Xu from the study even says, “if you are selling emotionally expressive products such as flowers or engagement rings, it would make sense to make the store as bright as possible.”

Likewise, if you are going to negotiate or need a level head for the experience, say a legal negotiation or a dentist office, perhaps dimmer lights might be the answer. Each organization should consider their own experience to see what makes the most sense for their particular experience, and adjust the lighting accordingly.

But as I have covered in other posts, there are several different parts of an experience, particularly in a retail customer experience that are highly influenced by the subconscious. Sometimes it’s the music that plays while shoppers are in the store. Sometimes it’s the sign or placement of a product that gets the attention of the subconscious shopper. Some retail experiences have even tried adding scent to the experience to try to enhance the environment and drive sales.

Too many organizations disregard these subconscious clues they give. Whether it’s the chains on the pens at the bank or the lighting in the jewelry store, these signals make a big difference to the perception of the experience by a customer. Most companies do not account for them, which means most companies leave this up to chance…and are likely to be left in the dark.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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