“Roses are red, violets are blue; when I’m around flowers I’m more attracted to you!”
Whether it's red roses for Valentine’s Day or a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers as a bride walks down the aisle, flowers are inextricably linked with relationships. But can the mere presence of flowers influence actual relationship behavior? To test this question, a French researcher randomly assigned female participants to watch a video of a male discussing food while participants were either (a) sitting in a room decorated with three vases full of flowers (roses, marigolds, and daisies), or (b) sitting in a room decorated with empty vases.1 Women who sat in the room with flowers rated the male in the video as sexier and more attractive, and they were more willing to date him.
A follow-up study assessed whether flowers had a similar influence on women’s behavior in a real-life interaction. The researcher had over 100 female undergraduate participants arrive at the study where an attractive male confederate who was, unbeknownst to the female participants, a part of the study, waited. After welcoming them both to the study, the researcher led them to separate rooms. The female participants underwent the exact same procedure as Study 1 (including random assignment to flowers vs. no flowers), while the confederate went to a separate room, ostensibly to complete the same task. Once the female completed the task, the researcher brought her to the confederate’s room where they were instructed to discuss their impressions of the video. After a few minutes of discussion, the researcher returned and asked the participant and confederate to wait a few minutes while the researcher printed more questionnaires. During that time, the confederate complimented the female participant (e.g., “you seem very nice”) and then asked for her phone number. Women who had previously watched the video in a room with flowers were more likely to give out their phone number than women in the no flowers condition. In fact, over 80% of women in the flower condition complied, whereas only 50% from the no flowers condition complied with the request for their phone number.
In a separate study in a more ‘real-world’ setting, the researcher had an attractive male confederate ask 600 young women, all of whom were walking alone in a shopping mall, for their phone number. However, the confederate didn’t just make his requests at any old place in the mall; he specifically asked for phone numbers either in front of a flower store, a cake store, or a women’s shoe store. As predicted, and consistent with the previous studies, the male confederate was more successful in getting a woman’s phone number when he asked her for her digits in front of a flower shop. Specifically, when the confederate asked for a phone number in front of a flower shop, he successfully got a number 24% of the time, compared to a 15.5% success rate near the cake store and an 11.5% success rate near the shoe store.
Overall, these studies show how flowers can influence women’s perceptions of a male’s attractiveness, sexiness, dateability, and the likelihood of giving out her phone number both in a lab and in a real-life shopping mall. In each case, it is possible that flowers’ close association with romance is responsible for the effect, or, it may be that flowers put people in a good mood that then makes them more generous in their ratings of others and their subsequent behavior. On a practical level, these findings suggest that fresh flowers are a good way to show you appreciate your spouse, and that the next time a guy wants to ask out a girl, a little flower power may go a long way.
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1Guéguen, N. (2011). ‘Say it with flowers’’: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior. Social Influence, 6, 105–112.
2Guéguen, N. (2012). 'Say it…near the flower shop': Further evidence of the effect of flowers on mating. The Journal of Social Psychology, 152(5), 529-532. doi:10.1080/00224545.2012.683463
Dr. Gary Lewandowski - Science of Relationships articles | Website
Dr. Lewandowski's research explores the self’s role in romantic relationships focusing on attraction, relationship initiation, love, infidelity, relationship maintenance, and break-up. Recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s Top 300 Professors, he has also authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences.