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Why Sadness Makes Us Susceptible to Shag Carpets
[After the jump, the explanation behind the study, plus five things that are comforting to touch that are not George Clooney]
The researchers claim that our affective (or emotional) systems evolved from those of mammals, and cite research showing that when small creatures were separated from their parents, they became distraught and sought the warmth and protection of their mothers. Those pups that were sensitive to tactile simulation (i.e., the feel of Mom's soft pelt) calmed down faster and were more likely to survive and pass on their sensitivity to touchably soft things. By contrast, the pups that were feeling secure and self-sufficient were more apt to explore their environments and respond to visual cues.
The researchers write that, over time, we've learned to prioritize our sensory responses, and that's why we feel like touching objects, especially soft ones, when we're preoccupied by sadness or distress, and we're more likely to crave visual stimulation when we're in a positive frame of mind.
The study doesn't explain why a visit to a museum can be a welcome distraction from a stressful day, as I discovered just the other week, nor does it tell us much about the emotional benefits of visual stimulation. The primary intention of this research seemed to be explaining the connection between our affective states and our sensitivity to touch. So while we wait for the product launches of expensive "breakup blankets" and "demotion lotions," here are five free sensory experiences to consider when you feel glum: