Flowers – Inducing Positive Emotion


An interesting psychological study, led by Rutgers University psychologist Jeanette Haviland-Jones, has been conducted in order to discover the effects flowers have on emotion and memory.   It was partly funded by the Society of American Florists, which makes sense, because this is important information about how our consumers operate.  Do people buy flowers just because it’s a safe, traditional gift or are there other forces at work that influence their decision?

The Duchenne Smile: The researchers looked for this sign, also known as the true smile, as an indicator of significantly increased mood.  The Duchenne smile is the one that not only scrunches up the cheeks but also the eyes.  It’s a full face smile and a “reliable indicator of happiness”.


The Study was broken down into 3 main experiments:

The first experiment was designed to test the short and long term mood shifts of women that were given a variety of gifts.  Some women were given large decorative candles, some were given fruit and sweets baskets while others were given mixed bouquets of roses, lilies and stocks.  The women that received the flowers all displayed the duchenne smile and had a long term increase in positive mood.  The other women all produced smiles with varying results and overall the duchenne smile was much less frequent with the other gifts.  Also interesting, is that the flower receivers were more likely to display their gift in a place where others could enjoy them.


This time involving men and women, the second experiment was aimed at strangers in the elevator.  They gave people riding the elevator a Gerber Daisy, a pen or nothing at all and recorded their reactions, friendliness and conversation.  Those given flowers smiled more often, were more likely to stand closer and initiate conversation.  Those given the pen were much less social and those given nothing often looked curiously at the flowers throughout the elevator ride.  A few even got up the nerve to ask for onewhen they got off the elevator.

The third study aimed to test the idea that receiving flowers improves the memory and clarity of thought in elderly people.  They found that the receiving of flowers did make quite a difference in these areas.  Whether or not it was the flowers or just the extra attention that encouraged the elderly people to make the extra effort probably cannot be determined.  But the idea is nice.

Overall, I found the whole study very charming.  Anything that can make someone beam out a duchenne smile must be a very good thing.  The fact that there is a name for that really special sort of smile is fantastic.  The study exemplifies, once again, that mystery can always be found in the ordinary stuff.

If you would like to know the full story you can go read the article at this address: