Humans are naturally curious. Whether it’s babies or adults, people are always asking questions, learning, and using their senses. The sense used the most is sight, but another way people learn is through touch (tactility). Babies frequently use touch. They learn what they like and don’t like, and people tend to like soft things the most.
So why do humans like soft things so much?
When someone touches things, signals go to the brain. And what the brain can do is process how it makes the person feel, what the object feels like, connect it to others things similar to it, and have memories relating to it as well. Babies are always surrounded by things that have a soft texture, so when people think of soft things, they could be connecting it with comfort and security, being reminded of a time when they were always comfortable and safe.
Psychology Today explained why people could be attracted to fleecy, silky, or fuzzy textures. In Ingrid Fetall’s article, Sad Times Call For Soft Textures, she assessed that people are more attracted to soft things when they are unhappy. “A study just published in The Journal of Consumer Research suggests that people are more attentive to tactile stimuli when they’re in a negative frame of mind, making them more likely to crave soft or pleasant textures than to pay attention to visual stimuli, such as color and pattern.” (Ingrid). Do regular people only like soft things when they’re in a negative mind? This also suggests that most people are visual learners so they could be mostly dependent on sight than other senses.
When people are consistently exposed to certain environments or feelings at a young age, so in times of unhappiness or distress, they could try and return to those environments like it’s their home base. It’s a matter of comfort levels and what people are surrounded by.
KSL. News offered some more answers. Their article Research shows soft blankets make us feel better mentioned something important. It describes the things we feel unique to blanks. “You don’t need Charlie Brown’s word that soft things like blankets provide comfort and security, because a real-life psychologist proved that point in the 1950s.” (Couture). It was also said that when kids become attached to things like stuffed animals and blankets, they begin to believe that there’s a life force inside of that object.
When we were younger, usually at baby or toddler age, someone (usually a parent) would give us a blanket, stuffed animal, toy, or something of that sort. From giving it a name to snuggling it at bedtime every night, itty-bitty humans will usually spend hours with that object, taking it to summer camp, accidentally dropping it in a puddle at the playground, and accidentally leaving it on the shelf next to the snickers bars at the local ShopRite. All of these countless field trips, numerous times losing their friend and going on stressful expeditions trying to get their buddy back leads to a connection. They feel an emotional connection to the object and see it as a “person” to comfort them, a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to help wipe away tears after scraping a knee.
A couple of years after reading the Harry Potter series, my Mom had gifted me J.K. Rowling’s The Christmas Pig. It tells a story of a boy named Jack with his best friend, a stuffed animal pig named DP. He ends up losing him, and the book tells of the adventures he has while trying to get him back. Don’t worry, no spoiler alerts, but Rowling describes their friendship consistently since page one, literally. “Dur Pig was a small toy pig made of the same material as a soft towel. He had plastic beans in his tummy, which made him fun to throw. His squishy trotters were exactly the right size to wipe away a tear. When his owner, Jack, was very young, he fell asleep every night sucking Dur Pig’s ear … When new, Dur Pig had been a salmony-pink, with shiny-black plastic eyes, but Jack couldn’t remember Dur Pig looking like that. Dur Pig had surely always been as he was now; grayish and faded, with one ear stiff from all the sucking.” (Rowling 1).
Dur Pig (shortened to DP) helped Jack through the hard parts of his childhood. For example, when his parents got a divorce, DP was there to listen to him, from a stiff ear to trotters to toes.
Children all around the world get these connections to stuffed animals or toys, and they all have gone through the same with their buddies, just like DP and Jack. Hugging it every night, using it as a ball to play catch, and staining it in the process. But, after all of that, the experiences someone will share with that object bring them closer to it.
Since birth, there was one stuffed animal I would take everywhere. Vaca (Spanish for cow), was like the DP to my Jack. I took her on camping trips, to my grandparents’ house, and since she’s a cross between a stuffed animal cow and a small blanket, she acted as a hand warmer, too. Plus, her ears were perfect for wiping away tears. Vaca’s pink spots aren’t as bright as they used to be, but I wouldn’t want her any other way.
This also leads to a guarantee that no matter how dirty or smelly a teddy bear or stuffed bunny may be, a child will choose that one instead of a new one just like it… It’s sentimental, but it is a magical thing that kids have with their buddies.
The human brain is a complicated thing, from wrinkles to the way we process information. No matter what, people need soft objects every once in a while, whether it’s in times of distress or instead to share experiences. Having these things around boosts mental health. Some may think that cozy things aren’t a necessity but having at least one around can make all of the difference in the world.
Couture, Minky. “Research Shows Soft Blankets Make Us Feel Better.” KSL.com, 3 Oct. 2019, www.ksl.com/article/46643851/research-shows-soft-blankets-make-us-feel-better#:~:text=The%20brain%20will%20trigger%20a,linked%20to%20your%20survival%20instinct. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.
—. “Research Shows Soft Blankets Make Us Feel Better.” KSL.com, 3 Oct. 2019, www.ksl.com/article/46643851/research-shows-soft-blankets-make-us-feel-better#:~:text=The%20brain%20will%20trigger%20a,linked%20to%20your%20survival%20instinct. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.
Fetall, Ingrid. “Sad Times Call for Soft Textures.” Psychology Today, 20 June 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/design-and-the-mind/201106/sad-times-call-soft-textures. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.
Rowling, J.K, and Jim Field. The Christmas Pig. New York City, Scholastic, 2021.