Almost on a daily basis, the media report of aggression. Defusing aggressive escalation in such situations is no mean feat and sometimes requires the active intervention of experts. But in De-escalate, a strategic research project funded by NWO, researchers investigate whether interactive lighting may help serve to confine, contain and control aggressive events.
De-escalate: Intelligent light to control emotions
Even though we consider ourselves rational beings, emotions are still a very present and powerful force in our lives. Sometimes, situations run out of control because we become frustrated and agitated, resulting in verbal or physical aggression. During an escalation a person’s attention narrows to the one thing that frustrates them, and this aroused, negative emotional state depletes their ability to carefully consider the situation, the other’s perspective, and the consequences of the impulses they are about to give in to, resulting in risk taking and "commitment to aggression". Interestingly though, attention, selfawareness, sociability and emotion are phenomena that we expect to be under the influence of light. De-escalate researchers examine psychological pathways through which exposure to dynamic lighting might defuse escalating behavior. They will test scenarios to lower arousal levels, induce positive mood, shift or broaden attention, facilitate social behavior, and increase self-control, of individuals and groups.
Living labs: From the laboratory to the real world
There are numerous situations in which emotions escalate and persons lose selfcontrol, scream, get abusive, aggressive, and cross behavioral boundaries they normally would not cross. Such incidents may occur outdoors (festivals, urban night life) as well as indoors (prisons, help desks, psychiatric wards). Yet they hardly ever occur spontaneously in laboratories and it is extremely difficult to create and investigate realistic episodes there. De-escalate aims to provide fundamental insights in human behavior, but also to deliver lighting schemes applicable and effective in real-life conditions. It therefore employs a multi-method and multi-site strategy. Theory-informed ‘Light principles’ are tested in controlled environments; then light scenarios are implemented in two escalation-prone locations designated as Living Labs: a psychiatric care facility of the GGzE, and ‘Stratumseind’, Eindhoven’s largest innercity entertainment area.
Social innovation: Managing emotions and managing crowds
ILI explores societal value creation through evidence-based lighting design. But social innovation can never be realized in isolation. The two PhDs and their team collaborate with GGzE, who have appointed a clinical psychologist for this project. Philips provides the intelligent lighting hardware and software, Gemeente Eindhoven’s sensor-intensive testbed Stratumseind provides the dreamed backdrop for the outdoor tests, Polyground coordinates the collaboration with the local stakeholders, DITSS and CrimiNee! offer their expertise in video surveillance, and Het Lux Lab advises in lighting design. Jointly, this consortium provides an excellent and unique opportunity for valorization in the context of public health and safety.