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J Physiol Anthropol. 2013 Apr 15;32(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1880-6805-32-7.

Psychological and physiological effect in humans of touching plant foliage - using the semantic differential method and cerebral activity as indicators.

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Graduate School of Horticulture, Chiba University, 648 Matsudo Matsudo-shi, Chiba, 271-8510, Japan.



Numerous studies have reported on the healing powers of plants and nature, but there have not been so many instances of experimental research. In particular, there are very few psychological and physiological studies using tactile stimuli. This study examines the psychological and physiological effects of touching plant foliage by using an evaluation profile of the subjects' impressions and investigating cerebral blood flow.


The subjects were 14 young Japanese men aged from 21 to 27 years (mean ± standard deviation: 23.6 ± 2.4). With their eyes closed, the subjects touched four different tactile samples including a leaf of natural pothos (Epipremnum aureum). The physiological indices were compared before and after each stimulus. Psychological indices were obtained using a 'semantic differential' method.


The fabric stimulus gave people 'soft' and 'rough' impressions, 'kind', 'peaceful' and 'pleasant' feelings psychologically, and a sense of physiological calm. On the other hand, the metal stimulus gave people 'cold', 'smooth' and 'hard' impressions and an image of something 'artificial'. The metal stimulus caused a stress response in human cerebral blood flow although its evaluation in terms of 'pleasant or unpleasant' was neutral. There were no remarkable differences between the stimuli of natural and artificial pothos compared with other types of stimulus psychologically. However, only the natural pothos stimulus showed a sense of physiological calm in the same appearance as the fabric stimulus.


This study shows that people experience an unconscious calming reaction to touching a plant. It is to be concluded that plants are an indispensable element of the human environment.

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