Here’s a bit of happy news: If you are lonely, sad, isolated, and generally feel rejected by society and everyone in it, you should probably go down to the teddy bear store and buy yourself a teddy bear! According to an actual recent study reported by the Wall Street Journal, teddy bears were able to counteract the human tendency to withdraw from the world when the world is being a meanie-pants. The study itself is kind of fascinating, even beyond the fact that it has teddy bears in it. (To be a fly on the wall in that laboratory!)
In part one of the study, which sounds just a bit sick, 181 undergrads were given a personality test, then received a false diagnosis based on that test. Some were told they’d “end up alone later in life.” Others were told they’d have great relationships. After hearing this potentially damning news (depending on how much you want some old person to live with you at some point down the road), participants were told to “evaluate a teddy bear.” Some got to hold it, others could only gaze at it from a ways off. Later, the participants were given an opportunity to be in more studies, and those who had been told they’d die alone but also touched the bear “volunteered for twice as many experiments, on average, as people primed to think about exclusion who did not touch the bear.”
Teddy bears = bringing people together!
Then for the second, also rather evil, part of the study, in which 95 undergrads had to pair up, with some being told (falsely) that no one had picked them and others being told (again, falsely) that they were quite popular:
Among the socially rejected students, the subjects who touched the teddy bear acted more cooperatively in a subsequent strategy game requiring coordination.
But before you go buy out FAO Schwarz, the study’s authors seem to think that it’s “touching an anthropomorphized object,” not a teddy bear, specifically, that gives this effect, which they consider akin to the benefits of human touch.
Really, though, all we heard was TEDDY BEARS.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 29, 2011