Do you still have your favorite blanket, pillow, or plush toy from your childhood?
If you do, don’t fear — you’re amongst good company.
Our partner LiveScience has the story by examining the data that drives our need to keep these reminders from our childhood. We believe these objects hold something of greater value to us than just their outward appearance or physical properties. Scientists call this belief “essentialism.”
Essentialism is why we don’t feel the same about replacing a lost object, whether it be our wedding ring, a toy from our childhood, or our cherished iPhone. The new object loses that emotional attachment the original had.
That’s one of the reasons some of us hang on to those childhood toys or objects — they hold an emotional value to us that is hard to put into words and far exceeds the physical nature of the object itself.
One of my friends enjoys this sort of bonding with every car she has ever owned. Not only does she name it, but she forms a bond that could only be described as an emotional attachment with the car. Another one of my friends has a small pillow she’s had since childhood. Although the pillow itself is hideous to look at, the emotional connection to that pillow has been formed and can’t readily be broken.
Belief in essentialism starts early. In a 2007 study published in the journal Cognition, Hood and his colleagues told 3- to 6-year-old children that they could put their toys in a “copy box” that would exchange them for duplicates. The kids didn’t care whether they played with originals or duplicates of most toys, but when offered the chance to duplicate their most cherished item, 25 percent refused. Most of those who did agree to duplicate their beloved toy wanted the original back right away, Hood reported. The kids had an emotional connection to that blanket, or that teddy bear, not one that looked just like it.
Even in adulthood, those emotions don’t fade. In a study published in August 2010 in the Journal of Cognition and Culture, Hood and his fellow researchers asked people to cut up photographs of a cherished item. While the participants cut, the researchers recorded their galvanic skin response, a measure of tiny changes in sweat production on the skin. The more sweat, the more agitated the person.
For me, my object was a “grandpa” doll I cherished and slept with all throughout childhood. It reminded me of my grand dads (both of them, actually). At some point, it found its way into the attic and I lost the emotional connection with the doll. When it resurfaced a few years ago, I look at it fondly, but not with the same strong attachment I knew I once shared for it.
Touching an object is also a big part of what makes us take “ownership” of it emotionally. The article explains this in greater detail, and is worth the read if you’ve ever wondered why people form these seemingly irrational attachments to inanimate objects.
Read the full article: Even Grown-Ups Need Security Blankets
What’s your security blanket?
What object did you have an emotional attachment with? Do you still have it?
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Oct 2010
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2010). Do You Still Have a Security Blanket?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/10/13/do-you-still-have-a-security-blanket/