Most of us have been bullied at some point in our lives – and we can all agree on how terrible the practice is and the negative ways it can impact the victims’ lives. But despite various researches and awareness campaigns that condemn bullying, it is still, sadly, a very common practice in most schools around the world.

So, how can learning institutions build empathy between students and foster an anti-bullying culture where each child can blossom into the best version of themselves? The iconic furniture company Ikea has started a unique awareness campaign to show school children how harmful bullying can be – even to plants.

In Ikea’s latest anti-bullying campaign, students were asked to bully a plant for 30 days to reveal shocking results

A bullying Experiment

If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. The old saying definitely holds true for the Swedish-founded furniture giant which has taken on a new initiative to teach young students the importance of being nice to each other. In an antibullying experiment conducted at a United Arab Emirates school, Ikea gave students two plants and asked the children to compliment one plant while bullying the other one constantly for the next 30 days.

The experiment which was conducted as part of a much bigger awareness program against bullying – not just in schools, but also on various online social media platforms – was showcased in a YouTube video in which the homewares chain said that plants are just like people and they have feelings.

So, what do you expect when one of plants is showered with love and the other with constant negativity and hate? The eye-opening experiment showed results that no one had expected.

Plants React to Human Emotions

Ikea used the hashtag #SayNoToBullying as part of its most recent initiative with a goal to raise awareness on the damaging effects of the common practice.

The company’s bizarre social experiment, which ran over the course of 30 days, taught the school children an important lesson on treating others with kindness and respect.

At the end of the experiment, the plant that was given love and positive treatment flourished whereas the plant that became a target of bullying slowly withered away

Not everyone reacted to the social experiment with the positivity that Ikea has expected. Some social media users criticized the company for using a deceptive concept with no legitimate or scientific backing just to promote a positive image of the brand.

One user called the experiment a hoax and said that he would only believe the outcome if it was conducted by other people on carious types of plants. Another person said that the ad seemed like a scam simply to make a point that bullying is harmful, but ad agency had tampered with the plants behind the scenes to achieve the outcome they were looking for.

The Internet Had Mixed Feelings

While some users were downright hateful towards the brand for lying to young children about how plants react to different types of behaviors, other users criticized the ad very subtly, giving Ikea credit for raising awareness on an important and prevalent issue, but still calling the experiment fake and lacking scientific credibility. Some people even decided to poke fun at the campaign by asking what language the plants spoke.

While many users criticized the campaign for its deceiving experiment, others agreed that plants are able to feel emotional and physical pain just as much as other living beings do. Some users who supported Ikea’s claim told their own stories about how they have experimented with talking to plants before and have reached the exact outcome as the school children from the bullying experiment did.

People also referenced a 1973 book called The Secret Life of Plants which claims that plants have a complex sensory system which is able to absorb and respond to sounds. In an online paper published by Professor Alana Schetzer from University of Melbourne, the author explains that plants can respond to changes of dangers in their environment even though they are not able to see, hear or taste.

A popular television show called Mythbuster conducted an experiment on plants to determine if they can hear voices around them, but the findings were much different than Ikea’s

The theory of plants being able to hear us was also tested in a show called Mythbusters where 60 plants were divided into three different groups and given the same amount of sunlight, water, temperature and other environmental conditions.

The only difference was that one group of plants was exposed to a hostile soundtrack filled with cruel insults whereas the other to a loving one filled with praises. At the end of the 60-day experiment, it was determined that all the plants grew equally healthy despite being exposed to different sounds.

What do you think about Ikea’s claim that plants can understand human emotions and react accordingly?

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