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Why We Become So Attached to Our Belongings

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Why We Become So Attached to Our Belongings

Low emotional security can intensify our relationships to our belongings

Scientific American,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

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Why do humans form such strong emotional attachments to objects?

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  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


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, this article will provide you with some answers.


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 was consistent in meeting their needs as a small infant. Psychologists have found a correlation between...

About the Author

Francine Russo is a veteran journalist, specializing in psychology and behavior. She is also a speaker and author of They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy.

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