An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers
For more than 5000 years, people have cultivated flowers although there is no known reward for this costly behavior. In three different studies we show that flowers are a powerful positive emotion “inducer”. In Study 1, flowers, upon presentation to women, always elicited the Duchenne or true smile. Women who received flowers reported more positive moods 3 days later. In Study 2, a flower given to men or women in an elevator elicited more positive social behavior than other stimuli. In Study 3, flowers presented to elderly participants (55+ age) elicited positive mood reports and improved episodic memory. Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females. There is little existing theory in any discipline that explains these findings. We suggest that cultivated flowers are rewarding because they have evolved to rapidly induce positive emotion in humans, just as other plants have evolved to induce varying behavioral responses in a wide variety of species leading to the dispersal or propagation of the plants.