A light bulb can make you a genius

A light bulb can you a genius - image for article by Greg Alder

I can make you smarter. My technique is laughably simple.

It involves a light bulb.

I turn it on.

That’s it. That’s the technique.

Before you laugh, I’ll tell you that psychologists can vouch for the effectiveness of the method.

So how does it work?

Plato used the sun as a metaphor for intellectual illumination, enlightenment and insight. For Plato, the sun symbolised the lightness of knowing in the darkness of ignorance.

More recently, the sun has been replaced by a glowing light bulb as the metaphoric symbol for the ‘eureka’ moment when ideas are born and solutions are discovered. Now, whenever we want to visualise ideas, we first think of a light bulb.

The image is now so intrinsically linked to ideas that a group of psychologists from Tufts University wondered if an image of a light bulb could be more than just a representation of ideas, but could be the catalyst.

In the first experiment, university students were asked to perform a series of tests. Some students sat in a room illuminated by an incandescent light bulb. The others were in a room illuminated by a fluorescent tube. The students who performed best were those in the room with the 25-watt light bulb.

The psychologists devised a second round of tests. In their next experiment, students were asked to solve difficult spatial, mathematical and verbal problems.

Again, students in rooms illuminated by a light bulb solved the problems faster and got more correct answers than those under fluorescent tubes.

To make sure that the quality of light wasn’t an influence, the psychologists repeated the tests with bare light bulbs and shielded bulbs. Students under the bare bulbs did better than those under the shielded bulbs.

From these tests, it is clear that being exposed to the common symbol for insight, a glowing light bulb, helps us think more insightfully, and solve more tasks with greater speed and ease.

So you see, to help you think smarter, all I need to do is introduce an illuminated light bulb. Your subconscious mind does the rest.

There are other techniques I could use to help you. One involves an apple – but this can wait for a future blog post.

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