//
you're reading...
Science, The Mind

Flower Power! New Study shows Plants can Boost Your Brain Power!

His FingerprintsDo you ever struggle to concentrate? You’re probably not alone. If you, like millions of us, spend the day working at a computer screen – then you will now that distactions are aplenty. The internet has been widely blamed for undermining our attention spans, and using social networking sites like Facebook seems to be costing businesses millions of dollars a day in lost productivity.

If you hate getting distracted, and want to stay focused, a team of researchers from Norway may have come up with a simple and ingenious solution: Put a pot-plant by your desk!

Working with Plants is Good for You!

You don’t have to be a member of Mensa to know that a busy, noisy workspace is not conducive to getting much work done. But in recent years, evidence has been mounting to show that having green plants or even a window view can lift mood and make your work more enjoyable.

A team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences decided to test whether indoor foiliage could actually improve cognitive performance.

Testing Brain Power with Plants

Volunteers were offered an office cubicle and given a series of demanding computer-based challenges to test how well they could remember texts and spot errors in documents. The subjects were split into two groups, each with identical cubicles - but with one difference - one group had an office pleasantly adorned with pot plants.

Illustration of office interior with plants: Two flowering Phalaenopsis orchids and two small shrub-like pot plants (Source: Journal of Environmental Psychology)

The results showed that those who worked in the presence of plants performed better and were able to hold their concentration longer!

Flower Power: How can Plants improve Brain Power?

No one is quite sure how or why plants can help. Human attention span is notoriously short, even at the best of times – some estimates are that it is just a few minutes. So psychologists suspect that having a ‘view on nature’ can offer a pleasant, momentary diversion from the intensity of work - rather than checking your emails or Twitter account every few minutes, gazing on the beauty of a pink orchid for a few seconds is enough to re-focus the mind without distracting from the task in hand.

Should everyone put a Phalaenopsis on their desk?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves – it is been calculated that most people can only stay focused on one task for about 20 minutes. I, for one, find that after more than 2 or 3 hours staring at a computer, I’m a gonna. So yesterday, I thought I would do a little experiment to test out whether flower-power was all that it was cracked up to be…

I had some not-very-exciting work to do on the computer and after enduring a morning’s labour of typing, I decided to put the flowers to the test! For the afternoon’s work, I put a pot of flowers on my desk to see if it would make me any more productive (being married to a florist has its advantages)!

Did it work? Honestly, I didn’t notice any difference – apart from making the room smell nicer!

But it has got me thinking: Even if our tulips didn’t obviously improve my productivity – what if it is the smell of plants that gave the brain-boosting effect on the Norwegian workers? I think there could be a new scientific experiment in this:

“How can smells effect your ability to concentrate?”

We could test flowers, coffee, freshly baked bread, mouldy socks.. (I’ll let you complete the list!!)

What a smell

A New Hypothesis: Could pleasant smells improve brain power?

Explore More:

Try an online attention span test!

How many hours lost to Facebook?: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/1730-social-network-use-costs-firms-over-130m-per-day

References:

Raanaas, R., Evensen, K., Rich, D., Sjøstrøm, G., & Patil, G. (2011). Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31 (1), 99-105 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2010.11.005

About these ads

About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Flower Power! New Study shows Plants can Boost Your Brain Power!

  1. I might just have to give this a shot.

    Not sure if a window view helps me personally, I’m far too distractable. Sunlight I think is the key. I wish I had a skylight.

    Failing that broad spectrum bulbs seem to help me. That’s something I’d like to see some research on.

    *Insert Hawthorne Effect Joke Here*

    Posted by Neurobonkers | March 11, 2011, 4:37 pm
    • Hi there!
      I remember being told to work near bright lights when on a night-shift to help keep you awake. Alas that also seemed to not do much for me.
      Are broad spectrum bulbs the same as those used to treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? If so, they certainly can help lift your mood.
      I confess I had to google ‘Hawthorne Effect’ ( http://psychology.about.com/od/hindex/g/def_hawthorn.htm ) – so yes I guess you should be wary of biasing your responses – that said, there are plenty of people happy to pay for a placebo tablet!
      I think that a broad spectrum bulb that gives you a suntan would most definately be a good idea…

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | March 12, 2011, 7:27 am
  2. Put a pot plant on your desk? Far out man, sounds distraction to me but you might get drug tested. Ba-Dom-bum!!! Thank you.. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your bartender!

    Posted by LW | August 29, 2011, 9:47 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Flowers Can Make Any Wedding a Success | Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer | Craig Photography by Elizabeth - August 4, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Dr Stu

Hospital doctor turned lecturer and science communicator, I love trying to answer life's questions - whether it is how our body works or the best way to dunk a biscuit.... Read more...

See Dr Stu's LinkedIn Profile Follow realdoctorstu on Twitter

Brag Tags

SPARKies finalist
Wellcome Trust 2011

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!

ResearchBlogging.org

Science Mag from Dr Stu:

New Crowdsourced Magazine from Dr Stu

Latest Tweets (@realdoctorstu)

Got a Question?

. Get it Answered Here!
See the website terms and conditions here.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 528 other followers

%d bloggers like this: