Feeling disconnected from others: The effects of ambient darkness on hedonic choice

Xun (Irene) Huang*, Ping Dong, Aparna A. Labroo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This research documents a novel effect of ambient lighting on consumer choice. We propose and find that ambient darkness (vs. brightness) can result in consumers feeling disconnected from others. As a result, consumers become more authentic in their choices and they choose hedonic over utilitarian options because these choices reflect what they truly want (Study 1). Past research had suggested darkness increases hedonic choice by making choice less observable, but we find this effect emerges even when the choice is already anonymous and darkness cannot further increase anonymity. Rather, feeling disconnected from others and less weight to social norms heightened self-authenticity in darker (vs. brighter) surroundings (Study 2). When consumers are reminded of social connection, this difference is attenuated (Study 3). Thus, consumers making hedonic choices regulate their choices when reminded of their social connections. Implications of these findings and possible extensions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-153
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Ambient lighting
  • Authenticity
  • Environmental influence
  • Hedonic choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing

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