Summary of Our Stuff, Ourselves

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Most people form emotional attachments to some of their possessions – be it a car, smartphone, or favorite memorabilia. Yet psychologists have only started to uncover the complex emotional processes that underlie people’s attachment to inanimate objects. Veteran journalist Francine Russo summarizes some of the most recent findings in this niche of social psychology for Scientific American. If you have ever bought something to fill an emotional void or wondered why losing a treasured object can cause such intense emotional distress, getAbstract believes that this article will provide you with some answers.

About the Author

Francine Russo is a freelance writer, author and speaker specializing in psychology and behavior. 



Objects can serve as substitutes for social relationships.

The psychologist Donald Winnicott argued that a “transitional object” that stands in for the mother when she is not present helps small children establish an independent sense of self. Researchers from fields ranging from anthropology to neuroscience have since elaborated on how humans use personal belongings to satisfy their emotional need for security and comfort.  

An individual’s “attachment style” can predict their propensity to seek emotional comfort from objects.

Psychologists distinguish between four different attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious and fearful. Attachment style strongly depends on the extent to which a person’s early caregiver...

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