Zumtobel Limbic Lighting


An interesting laboratory study carried out by Zumtobel in cooperation with Gruppe Nymphenburg, and illustrated by te lighting company at the EuroShop 2014.

The results of this study are particularly relevant to develop lighting concepts for sales and shop environments, in order to present the products in an ideal way and addressing the comfort of the consumers driving them to stop by longer.

Light impacts on people’s mood and emotions – both in positive and negative ways. However, the question of which lighting parameters, in a retail context, possess the greatest effect, and which lighting scenarios have a positive impact on people’s emotional perception, had not been investigated so far.

The Limbic Lighting study shows clear differences with respect to lighting preferences. Target groups respond in different ways to even the smallest changes hardly noticeable with the naked eye. Accordingly, adjusting the lighting scenarios to target group-specific needs is explicitly recommended.

Limbic Lighting Study

The Limbic Lighting laboratory study by Zumtobel and Gruppe Nymphenburg succeeded to record people’s emotional responses to various lighting scenarios in a shop. In the process, the lighting preferences of seven groups of customers were analysed using a neuropsychological target group model.

The findings of this study have lead to the development of retail lighting concepts that provide perfect presentation of goods and increase the customers’ sense of wellbeing.

Study design

Limbic Emotional Assessment (LEA)Limbic Emotional Assessment (LEA) is based on the methods of neuroscience and psychophysiology. The latter discipline deals with the connections between emotional processes in the brain and the concomitant physical reactions. The scientifically tested LEA method uses 5 parameters, from brain waves via skin conductance through to cardiovascular (heart) activity, in order to measure even the smallest of physical responses.

Based on realistic 3D visualisations of a fashion store, 20 different lighting scenarios were tested in total. The changes concerned six lighting parameters (light colour, light quantity, light distribution, beam pattern, contrasts in brightness and light colour).

The subjects were selected according to different target groups, the so-called ‘Limbic Types’. The Limbic Types focus on the complex emotional personality structures of consumers.

Limbic Types

Sociodemographic details such as age, sex and income are negligible in this context. It is assumed that the different personalities are primarily due to heterogeneous characteristics of the emotional and motivational systems in the brain.

According to the Limbic model, there are basically three major emotional systems: The balance, the stimulance and the dominance system. From which seven limbic types can be derived:

  • Disciplinarians
  • Traditionalists
  • Harmonisers
  • Open-minded
  • Hedonists
  • Adventurers
  • Performers

Zumtobel Limbic Lighting

In the area of retail and presentation, the effectiveness of light is closely related to the buying motives of the customers addressed. Different target groups will respond differently to various lighting scenes. Based on the study, Zumtobel was able to identify three focuses with fundamental differences in lighting design and clearly different appearances.

Limbic - Balance


Light for people looking for harmony and relaxation (Harmonisers, Traditionalists, and Open-minded)
The largest target group consisted of quiet, harmony loving individuals, showing particularly positive responses to moderate accent lighting.

Limbic - Stimulance


Light for unconventional people (Hedonists, Adventurers)
Those looking for fun, variety or adventure like to be inspired by contrast scenarios with low horizontal general lighting levels.

Limbic - Dominance


Light for critical people (Performers, Disciplinarians)
This sceptical target group is easily unsatisfied and will turn away from a situation that does not meet their expectations. They prefer balanced light distribution with a high proportion of diffuse light and uniformly illuminated peripheral areas. They are also responsive to discreetly mood-enhancing lighting effects.


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