Plant Experiment Intended to Show Students the Damaging Effects of Bullying – Debunked!

2 min


IKEA conducted a live social experiment with the intention of spreading positivity. Two plants were placed in displays at GEMS school around the UAE. One plant display had a speaker next to it playing a recorded audio loop of positive commentary, while the other had a speaker playing a loop of insults and bullying commentary. The plants were observed by students over a period of 30 days. Students began noticing the bullied plant starting to droop while the plant that was being complimented was flourishing. What an awesome visual to put in kids’ minds!

I think it’s an excellent project. To have something tangible that you can physically be a part of is, I think, going to be very powerful.” -Teacher and Head of House at GEMS Wellington Academy

Update 9/27/18:

But is it even true?

Scientists and myth busters have called out IKEA for promoting “fraud and fragility” through this “fake” experiment. In an expensive marketing stunt, IKEA is being accused of rigging the “scientific experiment” to make it look like the bullied plant started to die from insulting words when the reality is that plants do not respond to words, but rather types of sound. According to an article on Psychology Today, the experiment “was not carried out by an impartial research team but by an advertising agency hired to create a powerful social service product to enhance the IKEA image.” The article goes on to criticize the IKEA ad by stating that it promotes children to believe that words can actually be physically harmful.

What are kids being taught today? That insults are so destructive that not only can they hurt people, who are capable of comprehending the nasty words, they can even kill brainless plants that aren’t. And that’s why the bullying epidemic has been growing during the very period that society has been teaching kids how harmful insults are.

While IKEA intended to send a message of positivity and raise awareness of the harmful effects of bullying, was their impact ultimately more detrimental? As Psychology Today phrases it, their “use of plants as victims of bullying in a slick, expensive video, is not going to turn a counterproductive message into a productive one.”

As teachers, we need to be conscious of this. We want to teach children that bullying is bad because it hurts people, but we also need to teach them to be resilient. We need to teach them that words cannot hurt you unless you allow them to hurt you.

Watch the full video below to see the results:

What do you think about the message this video sends? Does it send a message of positivity or a message of fraud and fragility?

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