||Light is the most effective environmental stimulus for shifting the mammalian circadian pacemaker. Numerous studies have been conducted across multiple species to delineate wavelength, intensity, duration, and timing contributions to the response of the circadian pacemaker to light. Recent studies have revealed a surprising sensitivity of the human circadian pacemaker to short pulses of light. Such responses have challenged photon counting-based theories of the temporal dynamics of the mammalian circadian system to both short- and long-duration light stimuli. Here, we collate published light exposure data from multiple species, including gerbil, hamster, mouse, and human, to investigate these temporal dynamics and explore how the circadian system integrates light information at both short- and long-duration time scales to produce phase shifts. Based on our investigation of these data sets, we propose 3 new interpretations: (1) intensity and duration are independent factors of total phase shift magnitude, (2) the possibility of a linear/log temporal function of light duration that is universal for all intensities for durations less than approximately 12 min, and (3) a potential universal minimum light duration of ~0.7 sec that describes a “dead zone” of light stimulus. We show that these properties appear to be consistent across mammalian species. These interpretations, if confirmed by further experiments, have important practical implications in terms of understanding the underlying physiology and for the design of lighting regimens to reset the mammalian circadian pacemaker.