According to Fast Company, we have been trained so well to associate the light bulb with insight and creative thinking that simply sitting under one can inspire, well, insight and creative thinking.

That’s the conclusion researchers at Tufts University came up with after putting students through a series of experiments under both a bare incandescent 25-watt light bulb and an overhead fluorescent light.

In the first experiment, researchers sat students down in front of a screen that flashed 10 words linked with insight (i.e. create, conceive, and envision), 10 unrelated words, and 20 non-words. Students were asked to say whether a word was real or a non-word as quickly as possible. The researchers found students sitting under the bare bulb responded faster to words linked to insight than other words–possibly indicating that they associated light bulbs with insight.

The experiment doesn’t mean that fluorescent bulbs somehow make us stupid (good news for advocates of efficient lighting!). Rather, the increased insight comes from exposure to the symbol of insight–the bare bulb.

The lesson? Surround yourself with symbols of insight if you want to work smarter.

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