Crushed by Existential Angst? Find a Teddy Bear

Study finds a simple touch can ease feelings of worthlessness
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2013 7:07 AM CST

(Newser) – World got you down? Can't find the point of it all in your meaningless existence? You are a person in dire need of a teddy bear, say researchers in Amsterdam. Through a series of studies, they found that people with low self-esteem see the world in a much better light if they receive a simple physical touch, reports Red Orbit. In one experiment, a test-giver who handed out questionnaires about self-esteem and death gave some participants a gentle pat on the shoulder and others nothing. Those with low self-esteem who got the pat reported feeling less angsty about death, reports the Research Digest Blog.

“Our findings show that even touching an inanimate object—such as a teddy bear—can soothe existential fears,” says the lead researcher in Psychological Science. "Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance.” To amplify that teddy bear point, they conducted another experiment in which people were asked to estimate the value of a teddy bear from afar. Those with low self-esteem who were reminded of death pegged it at $31, compared with $17 for those with high self-esteem or those not reminded of death. The first group was apparently pining for a hug, suggest the researchers, who add that they're now looking into "haptic jackets" that simulate hugs electronically as a potential therapy for those with depression and anxiety, reports Medical Daily. (Another study suggests that hand-washing can give you a rosier outlook.)

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