What Happens When You Talk to Plants?

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I once encountered a fake guru who was your typical run-of-the-mill optimist. He believed that everything is possible if you just put your mind to it. But, when you asked him practical questions relating to starting a business or any business scenario, he would tell you generic stuff.

The reason I had to tolerate him was because he was a teacher for one of my courses in university. He told us that positivty is so powerful that even plants are affected by it. Then he gave us a project where we replaced plants with rice since plants take time to grow and rice would show us immediate results.

What’s the experiment?

We had to fill two transparent plastic bottles of rice and put one inside our house. The other bottle would be placed in some open area of the house. We had to say nice things to the bottle inside the house and be rude and negative to the one outside.

Person Holding Rice Grains

His claim was that the rice inside the bottle receiving negativity would become rotten and the other would be completely fine.

But what about the external factors like sunlight that the bottle outside would receive? He said it’s negligible.

Don’t laugh at me, I had to graduate!

He claimed that after 2 weeks, we would see the results for ourselves. Now what could possibly happen? The results were fairly obvious:

The bottle of rice that was placed outside the house became rotten and released a highly unpleasant odor. The one inside the house looked just like it did on day-1.

When it was time to showcase our results, he was extatic. He boasted about how the results showed just what he claimed. When asked about sunlight being a factor, he said it’s cloudy season so it won’t matter at all.

He said that this study has been done on plants numerous times (but failed to cite a source) and the results have been similar every time.

Does sound actually do anything to plants?

This got me thinking: Is there actually any research on plants exhibiting better growth when you talk to them? Well, there is some truth to that.

According to this article on The Spruce, plants actually did show better growth when they were introduced to sound.

The Royal Horticultural Society 10 people, including both men and women, reading from either literary or scientific works. Each recording was played through a set of headphones that was attached to each tomato plant’s pot (so, one tomato plant per person). The same tomato variety was used, same soil, same care regimen, etc. They also included two plants that were not read to as a control.

At the end of the month, the plants that had been attached to female voices grew an average of an inch taller than those attached to a male voice. The overall winning tomato listened to Sarah Darwin, great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Her plant grew approximately two inches taller than the rest.

Colleen Vanderlinden

So what can we deduce from the above paragraph? It shows us that sound waves affect growth in plants. What you say to them doesn’t matter. It’s the physical nature of sound that has an effect.

Podcast, Microphone, Wave, Audio, Music, Recording

Plants don’t understand words, therefore they won’t respond differently even if you swear at them. Swearing at them in a manner that produces the ideal sound wave conditions can have the same kind of effect as if you’re talking to them like a friend. It’s the physical properties of sound that matters.

If words mattered, then obviously the language we speak in would need to be accounted for. Unless plants seem to understand every language in the world, which seems unlikely (Maybe I should’ve asked the teacher this question).

The real science behind sound and plants

Here’s a really good, technical research paper with actual citations that show how sound waves actually make a difference.

We’re not saying that positivity has no effect. It really does make a gigantic difference in our daily lives. The issue at hand is people making ridiculous claims just to stand out. The person we’re talking about charges more than $1,000 for ‘life enrichment’ seminars where probably nothing useful happens.

It’s the job of average people like us to not just believe everything we’re told. We should ask questions to get a logical answer and if we don’t get one, we have a right to be skeptical.

If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out our take on the best National Geographic pictures of the year in Science.

If you want us to cover any other science myth, let us know in the comments below!

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