The meaning of flowers: A cultural and perceptual exploration of ornamental flowers

Efrat Huss, Kfir Bar Yosef, Michele Zaccai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Since ancient times people have been attracted by flowers and have invested precious energy to cultivate them even though there is no known reward for this costly behavior- in all cultures. How can this attraction be understood? To what extend is this relationship between people and flowers made up of evolutionary, cognitive, perceptual, emotional or socio-cultural components? Does it shift within different cultures? How can we better understand the attraction of people to flowers on both a cultural and universal level? Many questions in this field remain open. Objective: To understand culturally constructed versus universal-perceptual components of the attraction of people to flowers. To explore how different types of cultivated flowers (with different perceptual elements) are conceptualized within a specific culture. Methods: Using mixed methods, we investigated the comparative preference of 150 participants for four visually different flowers. We explored the reasons for the preferred choice of flower. Based on the above first phase, we investigated participants’ perceptions of the concept of a generic ‘flower’ and compared this to a mandala. Based on this second phase, we moved into cultural, perceptual and psychological theories using a concept-map, to access cultural understandings of specific flowers. Results: All four different flowers were equally chosen as first choice and therefore we introduced the generic or universal concept of ‘floweriness’ that was characterized by enhancing calmness and happiness. On this level, the concept of the flower ranked higher for inducing happiness as compared to a mandala shape that induced more interest. The other three flowers were ranked and differentiated in terms of the cultural connotations that their different visual components aroused, within the context of Israeli culture. Conclusion: The results illustrate the interactive synergetic interplay between universal perceptual and specific cultural elements in relation to specific flowers. Together with this differentiation, the results also point to a central concept of “floweriness” that transcends the specific cultural connotations of specific flowers.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)140-153
Number of pages14
JournalOpen Psychology Journal
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Cultural construction of meaning of flowers
  • Cultural context
  • Perceptual impact of flowers
  • Phenomenology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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