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Wilmien Brascamp

Research on human issues in horticulture focuses on the human dimension of horticulture in an effort to maximize the benefits of plants and nature in general, for human well-being. A key issue is the need for scientific evidence of such benefits and for rigorous research methods to reveal the mechanics of the interaction between people and plants. Conjoint analysis, a methodology with obvious potential for successful application in the area of human issues in horticulture, is widely used in consumer research to estimate the structure of people's reactions to multi-attribute objects or services. This paper discusses the steps involved in implementing conjoint analysis and describes how it can be applied to people–plant research.

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Hyunju Jo, Susan Rodiek, Eijiro Fujii, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Bum-Jin Park, and Seoung-Won Ann

To better understand how fragrance may enhance human health, this study examined psychophysiological responses to Japanese plum blossom fragrance. Although previous studies used essential oils or fragrance components, the present study measured the effects of floral scent naturally diffused by the plant itself to simulate the way we generally experience natural scent in everyday life. Subjects were Japanese males (n = 26), and the data collected included cerebral and autonomic nervous system activities, semantic differential (SD) scale, and profile of mood states (POMS). Exposure to the fragrance significantly activated the sympathetic nervous system and the cerebral areas related to movement, speech, and memory. SD scale and POMS results showed the fragrance evoked cheerful, exciting, and active images and changed mood states by enhancing vigor while suppressing feelings of depression. These findings indicate that contact with a floral scent such as plum blossom fragrance can improve mood states and may foster the brain functions of memory, speech, and movement, potentially leading to improvements in emotional health, depression, and memory disorders.

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Tina Bringslimark, Terry Hartig, and Grete Grindal Patil

Laboratory experiments and quasi-experimental field studies have documented beneficial effects of indoor plants on outcomes such as psychophysiological stress, task performance, and symptoms of ill health. Such studies have taken an interest in the value of indoor plants in work settings, but they typically have not considered how the effects of plants might compare with effects of other workplace characteristics. The present study makes an initial attempt to situate the potential benefits of indoor plants in a broader workplace context. With cross-sectional survey data from 385 Norwegian office workers, we used hierarchical regression analyses to estimate the associations that plants and several often-studied workplace factors have with perceived stress, sick leave, and productivity. Other variables included in our models were gender, age, physical workplace factors (e.g., noise, temperature, lighting, air quality), and psychosocial workplace factors (demands, control, social support). After controlling for these variables, the number of indoor plants proximal to a worker's desk had small but statistically reliable associations with sick leave and productivity. Although small, such associations can have substantial practical significance given aggregation over the large number of office workers over time.

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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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Diane Relf and Pete Madsen

Through funding from various horticultural associations (including ASHS, ALCA, SAF, WFFSA, and HRI), the People-Plant Council has been able to develop a computerized bibliography that will be of great value to researchers in the area of People-Plant Interaction and a second bibliography specifically for the area of Horticultural Therapy. The combined PPI and HT bibliographies contain approximately 1600 citations, 25 percent of which include an abstract. Due to the size and length of each bibliography (over 200 pages of hard copy), they are available on diskette. This will facilitate users searching for keywords or specific articles and allow them to rearrange the material as needed.

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Melanie M. Migura and J.M. Zajicek

Quantitative evaluation of horticulture vocational-therapy programs is becoming more and more critical as professionals in the area of people-plant interactions try to document the value of their programs. Evaluation tools to assess self-development of individuals studying such factors as self-esteem, life satisfaction, and locus of control have long been used in the social science disciplines. Many of these tools, either in their original forms or with some adaptations, can be successfully used to measure changes in self-development of individuals participating in horticulture programs.

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Anne M. Hanchek

In 1991, a suburban city in Minnesota found its lawn and nuisance weed ordinance the center of controversy as a citizen sought to develop a naturalized landscape that contrasted greatly with her neighbors' mowed lawns. This decision case study presents that situation as faced by the city policymakers and, when presented in a class setting, provides an opportunity to explore real options in a real issue of today. The case objectives are to prepare policymakers to deal with similar issues, and to broaden the outlook of students based in plant and environmental sciences to include the social factors of people-plant interactions. Group problem-solving skills also can be enhanced by this exercise. The abridged teaching note provides guidance for classroom and extension use.

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Susan Wilson Hamilton

Phenomenological interviewing is a research approach used extensively and successfully in the social sciences and has implications for those working with people-plant interactions. Although many research methods are available for horticulturists to use in obtaining information about a target audience, most methods used (e.g., surveys and questionnaires) are quantitative in nature in that they provide numerical data on statistical generalizable patterns. Phenomenological interviewing allows investigators, through open-ended interview questions, to obtain more in-depth data than traditional quantitative techniques. Transcribed interview tapes become the data from which analysis and interpretation follows. “Coding” the data by searching for words, phrases, patterns of behavior, subjects' ways of thinking, and events which are repeated and stand out classify and categorize the data helping with its interpretation and write up. Writing up such data must develop how you interpret what you found by carefully integrating themes that support a thesis and create or augment theoretical explanations. This research method allows investigators to understand and capture the points of view of the participants without predetermining those points of view through prior selection of questionnaire or survey categories.