Textile Ability Achieving the Emotional Satisfaction

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 14
Words: 2566
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: PhD


The significance of kinaesthetic experiences can hardly be overrated; one of the five senses that inform the further emotional and behavioral changes in an individual affects people’s perception of reality to a considerable extent (Ahmed & Hakkarainen 2013). Particularly, the impact of touching fabric, in general, and textile products, in particular, deserves to be mentioned.

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The study, therefore, is aimed at defining the reasons for people to use textiles as a means of overcoming grief. Particularly, the properties of textiles and their effect on people’s emotions will have to be studied to define the approach that will prompt an answer to the question of what properties of textiles allow people to handle negative emotions, such as grief, and conditions, such as depression.

The study focuses on the analysis of the emotions that people experience when in contact with textiles. Specifically, the study involves the evaluation of the positive emotions that people experience when sensing textile products. The research also addresses the experiences, which allow the participants to feel the specified emotions and, therefore, numb the pain, therefore, coming to terms with their loss. Particularly, the study will consider the situation, in which people experience the necessity to experience the corresponding sensations by touching or smelling textile products.

It is expected that the research outcomes still display an obvious connection between the need for emotional comfort and the necessity to experience a sensation of a piece of textile. The specified phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that textile has the property of retaining smells. Therefore, the smell, which one may relate to a specific person (e.g., perfume), clings to textile, thus, triggering memories of the person, who used to wear it. Moreover, the properties of textile such as softness also deserve to be mentioned as an important reason for the specified type of clothing to be used by a number of people when seeking comfort or grieving. In other words, textile affects the senses of a person in the way that creates premises for regaining control of one’s emotions and bringing pleasant memories about relationships with a specific person, or any point in one’s life that can be reminded of with the help of a certain smell or tactile experience.

The presence of VOC (volatile organic compounds) can be deemed as the key reason for the specified phenomenon to exist. Studies show that the specified substance helps retain smells in textiles (Yu, Lee, & Lin 2015). Despite their tendency to evaporate, VOC substances are kept by textile products because of the texture that they have (Treadaway, Kenning, & Coleman 2015). As a result, a specific smell is created. It is assumed that the existence of VOC in textile products contributes to the intensity of smell and, therefore, the extent, to which people are able to jog one’s memories regarding a certain peaceful situation, therefore, creating an environment of comfort and soothing feeling.

Additionally, it is expected that the experiment, as well as the analysis of the existing studies, will confirm that the feeling of comfort is provided by not only the properties of textile such as the ability to accumulate VOC but also the personal memories of the people touching it. In other words, the degree, to which one feels comfortable when coming in contact with a piece of textile, depends on the number.

The main text

The comforting properties of textiles have been known for quite a while (Jeon 2011). People touch and hold textile products to feel safe and calm. However, the properties of textile, which define its use as an emotional stabilizer, have not been discovered fully.

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Despite the above-mentioned fact regarding the use of textile as the means to comfort oneself, the reason for the specified phenomenon to exist has not been studied before. A closer look at the subject matter, however, may help identify the reasons for people to calm down when touching textile clothes. Thus, a new method of therapy can be developed.

People tend to touch textile products when being in a wistful mood and especially when missing a certain person due to the ability of the former to retain volatile organic compounds (VOC), which release the scent that reminds one of the people wearing the textile item of clothing in question. People seek to experience the feeling of contacting a textile item in not only the case when they miss a particular person but also in general instances when they are upset need to be comforted.

Literature review

According to the existing studies, people are affected emotionally by the properties of textile such as its texture and especially color. Specifically, Han et al. (2013) point to the fact that emotions are linked directly to textiles; consequently, the authors explain, a corresponding indexing system can be developed so that the textile products could be coded adequately based on the emotions that they trigger or represent. As a rule, indexing is typically dependent on the properties of the textile such as its color and the images printed on it; however, the use of images is typically preferred as it creates more opportunities for an emotional connection (Shin, Kim, & Kim 2010).

It would be wrong to assume that the rest of the textile’s properties have little to do with the emotional experiences that one may have when coming in contact with it. However, color should be viewed as the tool that allows for building very strong triggers for emotional experiences in an individual: “high-level semantics is needed that covers both physical attributes, such as named objects and persons and abstract attributes, such as emotions that can be associated with a given image” (Shin et al. 2010, p. 526). Shin et al. (2010) prove that touching textiles may trigger memories of emotional experiences. In other words, as far as emotional experiences are concerned, the significance of the color properties of textiles is not to be underrated.

However, further studies reveal that textile products also have the property of retaining smell, which, in its turn, causes people to recall the people, who smell the same way (e.g., due to the use of a particular perfume, specific skin products, etc.). Thus, textiles create a soothing environment, in which one is able to calm down and deal with one’s emotions in an adequate manner. In fact, a recent analysis of the changes, which occur in people on a cellular level has revealed that the experience of touching and smelling textiles can be decoded from the signals released by a human brain, has shown that the phenomenon of the so-called “affective touch” (Singh et al. 2011, par. 25) can be observed in most people. Further studies reveal that the aforementioned affective touch occurs due to the properties of textile such as their texture and shape; in other words, the tactile perception of textile is just as important as, if not more important than, the visual one:

Results found that “feeling good” factors were caused mostly by texture (e.g. softness, warmth, vibration, dynamical surface while touching), in blindfolded condition while in the non-blindfolded condition, shape produced predominantly the greatest “feeling good” sensation. (Jeon 2011, p. 28)

The dynamical surface mentioned above can be defined as a surface that is very flexible. In other words, by sensing textile, people can reach emotional satisfaction due to the properties of textile such as its roughness, or, to be more specific, the lack thereof, its warmth, the vibration that it releases, etc. Although the study reveals that visual experiences related to color are also important, the necessity to come into physical contact with textile is still quite obvious, as the study carried out by Jeon (2011) shows. Particularly, the kinaesthetic experiences and the olfactory ones deserve to be defined as the basis for creating a link to the previous experience of communicating with the person wearing the item in question and, thus, having positive emotions. As a recent study by Gross and Neargarder (2011) explains, the need to touch textiles can be explained by tactile-emotion synaesthesia. According to this research, this is typically defined as a “phenomenon in which particular stimuli, such as letters or sound, generate a secondary sensory experience, known as a percept or a concurrent” (Gross & Neargarder 2011, p. 196). The concurrent can be defined as a specific memory, which a person connects to the experience of touching a textile. To be more exact, tactile experiences activate other senses, therefore triggering an immediate connection to a previous situation, in which the same, or at the very least similar, physical sensations were being experienced at the same time as certain emotional ones (Ahmed & Hakkarainen 2013). Consequently, by placing one in the same environment as the physical sensations (especially the tactile and olfactory ones), textiles may cause one to feel positive emotions as well as trigger happy memories related to the physical experiences in question, such as hugging a family member wearing textile items in question. The calming effect, which the experience of touching textiles provides to an average individual, thus, can be attributed to the texture of the textile items in question to a considerable extent. As has been stressed above, numerous studies (Gross & Neargarder 2011; Jeon 2011) have proved that the combination of the texture, which most textile items have, and the comfort, which textile is typically associated with, create the environment, in which one is likely to experience positive emotions. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that these positive emotions can be linked to similar positive memories, which one had experienced in the past. As a result, it becomes possible for the person coming in contact with textile items to experience emotional satisfaction.

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However, research also shows that the soothing properties of textiles go beyond merely providing people with pleasant kinaesthetic experiences. Owing to the volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are retained in textiles due to their structure, textile products can keep smells for an impressive amount of time (Gross & Neargarder 2011; Salar 2012). As a result, people can relate to certain types of textiles on a very personal level by creating an emotional link based on the memories that they have of a specific person or a certain moment in their lives when they felt happy. Therefore, the manner, in which textiles affect people emotionally, can be described as twofold. By addressing people’s intuitive need for touching soft and warm surfaces of textiles as well as providing an opportunity to recall both positive and negative moments in their lives, textiles serve as the tool for comforting people.


To retrieve the necessary data, a group of ten participants was included in an experiment. First, a set of personal interviews was used as the means to retrieve information regarding the participants’ experience with textile products in the time when they felt negative emotions. Afterward, the participants were asked to watch a video recording that was supposed to provoke negative emotions in the participants. At the same time, they were provided with small textile items, such as gloves, potholders, etc. After the short movie was over, the participants were asked about the emotions that they experienced while the number of times that they contacted the specified textile items were recorded.

Additionally, a general study of the phenomenon in question, i.e., the need to seek comfort in a contact with a textile item was conducted. The research in question embraced both scholarly articles and books written on the subject matter. Since the connection between emotions and the need to come in contact with textiles has not been studied thoroughly yet (Giboreau, Nicod, & Diaz 2012), the papers researching a general link between emotions and the properties of textiles were used as the foundation for the analysis. Thus, the possible biases regarding the lack of objectivity in the participants’ respondents may be neutralized with a detailed and all-embracing study concerning the possible scenarios, in which people may experience the need to feel textile products.


As the study has shown, people do tend to use textile products as a means of coming to terms with the negative emotions that they experience. According to the research, the participants needed to touch textile products (mostly clothes and decorative items such as cushions) in the instances when they experienced the following emotions: fear, anxiety, anguish, anger, misery, and panic. It should be noted, though, that 5% of the participants (7 people) did not need to touch any of the products suggested to them.

The study shows in a very graphic manner that people tend to have the need to touch textile products mostly when experiencing negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, misery, etc.

However, one must admit that some of the participants (3 people, or 2%) experienced the urge to touch textile products when having happy memories and experiencing positive emotions such as happiness and satisfaction.

Hence, it can be assumed that people feel the need to touch textiles and related products when being overwhelmed with the emotions that they cannot handle on their own. As a rule, these include negative emotions, such as fear (17%), anguish (29%), and anxiety (38%). Other feelings experienced by the participants include panic (4%) and misery (9%). Therefore, these are predominantly negative emotions that compel people to seek comfort in touching textile products.

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The interview results indicate that the phenomenon in question is generally attributed to the fact that the participants link the image of a particular person, whom they can relate to easily when being miserable, with the tactile and olfactory experiences that they have when coming in contact with a textile item.

A detailed analysis of the existing scholarly sources shows that the specified phenomenon can be explained with the help of VOC. Becoming incorporated into the fabric and, therefore, remaining in its very structure even after the textile items have been washed, the above-mentioned components retain the smell of the person, who wears or used to wear the item in question (e.g., the scent of perfume, skin care products, etc.). Indeed, 114 respondents (80.7%) confirmed that it was the smell that made them use textile items to stifle the emotional pain. At the same time, 130 participants (93%) stated clearly that they also needed to touch the textile products.


The experiment results show clearly that people need to touch textile products in the stressful moments of their life in order to calm down and be able to handle their emotions. The latter can be described as generally negative and include anguish, anxiety, fear, panic, and misery. However, several instances of experiencing positive emotions (happiness and satisfaction) have been spotted. Each case, nevertheless, displayed the inability of the respondent to handle their emotions properly and control them so that they could not disrupt the course of the participant’s actions. Therefore, it can be considered that the need to touch textile products is related closely to the necessity to gain control over emotions.

Based on the implications of the study, it can be suggested that textile products should be used as the tools for helping people manage their emotions. Particularly, the use of products such as textile clothes or other items, e.g., toys, elements of room decor, etc., should be considered as a means of handling emotions in a proper manner and not letting feelings get out of hand. Hence, further promotion of the production of textile with the specified characteristics needs to be considered.


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