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Diane Relf

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A well-known research report showed that being in a hospital room with a view of trees rather than a view of a building was linked to the use of fewer pain-reducing medications by patients recovering from surgery. The experiment reported here was designed to further examine the role of plants in pain perception. We found that more subjects were willing to keep a hand submerged in ice water for 5 min if they were in a room with plants present than if they were in a room without plants. This was found to be true even when the room without plants had other colorful objects that might help the subject focus on something other than the discomfort. Results from a room assessment survey confirmed that the room with colorful, nonplant objects was as interesting and colorful as the room with plants present, but the presence of plants was perceived as making the air in the room fresher.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A nationwide phone survey of attitudes toward urban trees, participation in civic or educational activities, and memories of childhood experiences with gardening and nature was conducted with 2004 adults in large urban areas. We analyzed the influence of 11 childhood experiences and five adult demographic characteristics on three items: “Trees in cities help people feel calmer,” “Do trees have a particular personal, symbolic, or spiritual meaning to you?” and “During the past year, have you participated in a class or program about gardening?” Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions. Growing up next to urban elements, such as large buildings, had a small, but opposite, influence. Demographics played a role in adult attitudes and actions. While both passive and active interactions with plants during childhood were associated with positive adult values about trees, the strongest influence came from active gardening, such as picking flowers or planting trees. These results indicate that horticultural programs for children raised in urban surroundings with few or no plants can be effective in fostering an appreciation for gardening in adults.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Paula Diane Relf

Throughout history, plants have been used to benefit people. In the United States, formal research to document the impacts of plants on people was not published until the 1970s, when papers from social and medical scientists began to appear. In the 1990s, symposia, including the first on “The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-being and Social Development,” brought people together from around the world to share and expand their knowledge in this emerging field. Symposium participants have included researchers in the social sciences and plant sciences, practitioners in horticultural therapy, teachers in colleges and public gardens, industry representatives applying the knowledge, and more. This has formed the basis for current activities in research, teaching, and practice throughout the United States. Examples from research that now documents a variety of beneficial impacts of plants on people are discussed.

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M. Adachi, C.L.E. Rohde, and A. D. Kendle

Changes in human emotions were investigated during exposure to three different indoor conditions: floral display present, foliage display present, and no display present. There were 20 subjects (10 males and 10 females) in each condition. The subjects were shown a video that introduced the University of Reading and included scenes of landscapes. It was shown that a floral display had positive effects on human emotions, such as composition and confidence, however, some evidence of a significant increase in annoyance was also found for this treatment. The foliage display had a somewhat negative effect by slightly increasing bad temper, and the foliage display tended to have a positive effect on clearheadedness. Investigations of psychological responses to nature are complex, and many opportunities for more work exist.