27 February 2019

Flowers are good for you. Science says so.

Flowers have a long-held and well-deserved reputation for making us happy. We give them to people to celebrate great moments and well as to soften the worst ones. It’s one of those truths that we all accept to be true, without ever really thinking about how or why they work.

Well, we say that, but some people have thought about it. A group of American psychologists have shown that gifts of flowers make people happy with remarkable consistency. You may be thinking that when asked, people always say they are happy to get flowers because it’s polite. This may also be true, but what these researchers actually measured is the presence of the “Duchenne smile” (that’s smiling with your eyes or “smizing” to you and me) when people received flowers, and found it in every one of the 147 people they tested. They used this smile as it can be easily compared to the smile that is only in the mouth without eyes (we’re not sure what that’s called) or no smile at all. Not only did it make them happy at the time, but these recipients reported being significantly happier than those who didn’t get flowers in 3 days’ time!

In another part of the same study people who were given flowers in a lift were significantly happier than when you gave them other gifts (or no gift at all), even if this was just a single stem. This seems a little obvious, maybe they put this part in the study make sure they found something.

In the final – coolest – part of the study flowers were given to elderly participants and not only did the researchers again see an improvement in mood, but also an improvement in episodic memory. FLOWERS MADE THEIR MEMORY BETTER. Amazing.

Why do these researchers think we like flowers so much? The researchers who conducted this study are evolutionary psychologists. Their theory is that flowers have evolved to make us love them, so that we will cultivate and spread them more widely. This makes sense in a common sense way. The best evolved flowers would be the most beautiful and sweetest smelling, so that humans would offer them the most protection and keep replanting them, leading to them increasing in number. Crafty devils.

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