Ambient light plays a key role in social interactions, and the effects of ambient light on explicit altruism have been widely documented. However, whether ambient light affects implicit altruism and the potential mechanisms underlying the effect remain largely unknown. The current study aimed to explore the effects of ambient illuminance on explicit and implicit altruism simultaneously, and to determine the potential mediation role of subjective mood, state self-control perceived anonymity and satisfaction with light. A one-factor (Illuminance: dim (100 lx) vs. bright (1000 lx) at eye level), between-subjects design was employed in the current study, during which seventy-eight undergraduates (52 females, 18-25 years old) were assigned to two groups, with participants in each group undergoing both the dictator game assessing explicit altruism and the implicit association test (IAT) assessing implicit altruism under one of two illuminance conditions. Meanwhile, subjective mood, state self-control, perceived anonymity and satisfaction with light were also assessed with questionnaires at the beginning or/and at the end of the experiment. Results revealed that participants tended to allocate more money in the dictator game and showed a higher state self-control, satisfaction with light and lower perceived anonymity under bright versus dim illuminance condition, whereas the performance in IAT and subjective mood revealed no statistically significant effects of illuminance. The promoting effect of bright illuminance on explicit altruism was partially mediated by perceived anonymity and satisfaction with light, but not by state self-control. These findings suggest that ambient light holds the potential to regulate psychological well-being and thus facilitate prosocial behavior, but such benefits are dependent on the type of task.
Keywords: altruism; anonymity; dictator game; implicit association test; light; satisfaction with light; self-control.