Incandescent affect: Turning on the hot emotional system with bright light

Alison Jing Xu, Aparna A. Labroo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


We propose that turning on the light can turn on the hot emotional system. Across six studies we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases the intensity of their affective response, including sensation seeking from spicy-hot foods, perception of aggression and sexiness ("hotness") in others, and generating more extreme affective reactions toward positive and negative words and drinks. We suggest that these effects arise because light underlies perception of heat, and perception of heat can trigger the hot emotional system. Thus, turning down the light, effortless and unassuming as it may seem, can reduce emotionality in everyday decisions, most of which take place under bright light.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-216
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by a standard research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (no. 491127 ) to A.J. Xu.


  • Affective response
  • Ambient effects
  • Decision making
  • Emotions
  • Light


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