Effects of Light on Attention and Reaction Time: A Systematic Review

Rostam Golmohammadi, Hanieh Yousefi, Negar Safarpour Khotbesara, Abbas Nasrolahi, Nematullah Kurd


Background: Accuracy, speed, efficiency, and applicability of activities in the workplace are among the most important effective factors on people's productivity, which is in turn affected by environmental factors, such as light. Therefore, the present research aimed to review the studies performed about the effects of light on attention and reaction time.

Methods: This review study systematically searched articles from 2000-2019 in databases of Google Scholar, ISC, SID, Magiran, Web of Science, Science Direct, PubMed, and Scopus using keywords of light, lighting, attention, and reaction time. The titles and abstracts of articles containing relevant results over the past 20 years were extracted. Thereafter, they were categorized and analyzed according to the title, author name, publication year, study method, study type, and evaluation results.

Results: Based on the results, the light with shorter wavelengths, higher intensity, and higher color temperature led to suppressed melatonin, higher consciousness, less somnolence, increased attention, and faster reaction time. Simultaneous exposure to harmful levels of environmental factors affects cognitive and physiological parameters, acting independently with a separate mechanism or synergistically with a similar mechanism. The best light in the regulation of psychological, biological, and cognitive processes is bright daylight in the morning with a short wavelength, high intensity, and more lasting effects.

Conclusion: As evidenced by the obtained results,  light is a powerful modulator of non-visual performance in cognitive tasks. The wavelength, color temperature, and light intensity modulate brain responses to cognitive tasks, including attention and reaction time. Therefore, these parameters, along with personal and environmental factors, should be considered in designing and using light.


Light; Lighting; Attention; Refractory Period

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