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Perhaps you have a 2-year-old with an affinity for a particular fuzzy blanket they've had forever. Maybe they ask you for it when they're sad, tired or scared.
And you know that not just any blanket will do. It has to be that one particularly ratty, tattered piece of cloth they've clung to since birth, or they are inconsolable. (Parents who've made the grave mistake of traveling without said blanket know this all too well.)
You've probably heard the term "security blanket" before, but you might not be familiar with its origin. According to Merriam-Webster, most people attribute this phrase to the popular "Peanuts" comics by Charles M. Schulz.
Schulz's character, Linus van Pelt, was famous for carrying around the same blanket wherever he went. At one point, Linus' good friend Charlie Brown decides to carry a blanket as well, which he describes as a "security and happiness blanket" that "all little kids carry."
"They're just the thing to have when you're tired and discouraged," says Charlie. "See? You just sort of scrunch your face into it, and right away, you feel secure."
Whether or not you ever carried one yourself, it turns out there's a scientific reason why toddlers — and most adults — love those soft, fuzzy blankets.
Feelings of comfort and security
You don't need to take Charlie Brown's word that soft things like blankets provide comfort and security, because a real-life psychologist proved that point in the 1950s.
According to the University of Oregon, Harry Harlow conducted various experiments with baby monkeys to learn about relationships formed between infants and mothers, which led to major findings about love and development in human beings.
In these experiments, Harlow would isolate the infant monkeys from their mothers at birth, having them rely on two different surrogate monkey mothers made from machines. One machine was made of bare wire mesh and the other was covered in soft terry cloth. Although both surrogates provided nourishment, the monkeys preferred the soft terry cloth when they were given a choice.
When the experiment was repeated and the monkeys weren't given the option to choose the surrogate mother, the monkeys that were "raised" by the soft terry cloth had an emotional development advantage over those with the wire mesh mothers.
The ability to cuddle something soft and warm kept normal development on track by providing comfort and security. Harlow's experiments concluded that humans appear to be no different from their primate cousins in this regard.
This might explain why you enjoy petting your cat, wearing your favorite sweater, cuddling a stuffed animal or curling up in a warm blanket.
Adding to the science behind Harlow's experiments, a new study in The Journal of Consumer Research supports the idea that tactile sensations can be comforting for people in a negative frame of mind because of mammalian instincts.
"Human affective systems evolved from mammalian affective systems, and when mammals are young and incapable of thinking, their brain systems have to make these pups able to perform the 'correct' behavior," wrote Dan King and Chris Janiszewski, the authors of the study.
For example, when a puppy is cold, sick, injured or lost, it can mitigate these negative effects by returning to its mother for warmth, nourishment and protection. The brain will trigger a pleasure response to its mother's touch that will help the puppy remember where to go in times of anxiety or pain.
Simply put, your attraction to soft, warm things when you're sad is linked to your survival instinct. (And you may want to give your mother a hug.)
Find the comfort you crave
As the cold weather hits, you might find yourself reaching for your own blanket.
For a soft blanket that's both comforting and beautiful, visit Minky Couture. The high quality, plush fabric of a Minky blanket is made with love and care — as if your grandma made it herself. With a variety of sizes and patterns available, these blankets can be customized for infants, tweens or adults.
Whether you're feeling sad or happy, Minky Couture will provide the comfort you need as the temperature drops. Visit their website to browse their selection of blankets or to find a Minky store near you.