Thursday, March 8, 2007

The 'Essence' of security blankets

A study in England looks at 3-6 year old children's attachments to their cherished items.

"Children were introduced to a scientific looking machine that could copy any object but was in fact a conjurer’s cabinet where an accomplice inserted replica items from behind a screen.
Professor Hood said: “When offered the choice of originals and copies, children showed no preference for duplicates of their toys unless the object to be copied was the special one that they took to bed every night. A quarter of children refused to have their favourite object copied at all, and most of those who were persuaded to put their toy in the copying machine wanted the original back.”"

To explain this, the researchers have this hypothesis: "Hood and Bloom liken this early reasoning to adult notions of ‘essences’ where we think invisible properties inhabit objects that make them unique as if these properties were physically real. This may explain why some adults think that authentic works of art and memorabilia contain some of the essence of the original creator or owner. Likewise, it also partly explains our reluctance to touch or wear items previously owned by murderers."

Makes me wonder about the evolutionary benefits of this, much like the hypothesis that humans are hardwired to believe in God.

1 comment:

Dr V. said...

This finding would support Winnicott's theory of "transitional objects", which is as far as I know, the only psychological theory which attempts to explain the favorite blanket and like phenomena.

Transitional objects and other “transitional phenomena” are a means the child employs to smooth the passage from subjective omnipotence to objective perception of external reality. The transitional object is an external, not-me thing which provides comfort when the child feels threatened by his/her environment. A child’s first favorite stuffed toy, or a blanket which they cling to constantly, are the classic examples of transitional objects. The child’s creation of a transitional object around a possession involves both magical thinking and physical manipulation of the external environment. This gives the child a real object which has some of the comforting properties of the omnipotence fantasy.