In the first study, flowers were tested against other gift stimuli, such as a fruit and sweets basket and a large decorative candle. Of the 147 women tested, all those who received flowers responded with a smile; however, there were no smiles from 23 percent of those who got received candles and 10 percent of those who got fruit. The second study involved 122 subjects of both sexes in an elevator. When a person entered, he or she either received a flower, a pen or nothing at all. Again, flowers were the emotional winner with recipients smiling, chatting and standing closer together.
In the last study, florists delivered bouquets to 113 men and women in a retirement community an environment in which memory is often a personal concern. All 113 got flowers, some at the beginning of the study with a follow-up bouquet a few days later, some only on the second round and others after the study. Everyone also received a decorative booklet for note-taking.
As might be predicted, the one-bouquet group was happier more smiles and less observed depression than those left for last; the two-bouquet folks were happier still. The most profound results appeared when participants were tested for detailed recall of the flowers, booklet decorations and book entries. Flower power again triumphed: Those who received the most and the earliest flowers demonstrated the best memory.
"Flowers have been ignored for the most part in the literature on plants and people," McGuire says. "Perhaps they have been overlooked because their nature and beauty is so obvious. It is hard to imagine that we might have been responsible at least in part for their appearance. With the proposed model of evolution and adaptation to a human emotional niche, perhaps we have a clearer picture of our floral companions."