The Circumstances in Which People Relate to Textile Ability to Help People Overcome Grief

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 10
Words: 1495
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD


Problem Statement

The materialistic perception of reality is intertwined with the emotional needs of people in most unusual ways. When being overwhelmed by grief, people often seek a way of placating their pain, which often results in trying to bring the memories of the person or object lost back (Petreca et al 2013). In other words, people try to locate the physical objects that could enhance the process of recalling specific events occurring in the past.

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These memories can be triggered by a variety of sensational experiences, including visual, aural, tactile and olfactory ones. The precise nature of relating to the textile ability to help people overcome grief and emotional issues, however, remains rather vague; it is unclear whether people relate to textiles due to their ability to retain the smell of the previous owners, or whether the sensation that people experience when touching the specified material provides the comforting feeling that triggers uplifting emotions.

Purpose of the Research

The research is aimed at proving that people relate to textiles in the situations when they need to make an emotional connection to the person that they associate with the textiles in question, as well as in the circumstances, where people need to gain an emotional balance and comfort within, as textiles are capable of retaining various smells. Therefore, the study will focus on exploring the instances, in which people feel the urge to touch textile products, as well as analyze the factors that cause people to experience this need.

Significance of the Research

Since there is little to no evidence of textile having the specified ability to pacify emotions and support people in the process of grieving (Kumar et al. 2012), or the information concerning the use of textile for the specified purposes of serving as the tools for emotional satisfaction and overcoming emotional traumas, the study can be viewed as original and, therefore, holding a significant value. The results of the study can be used in a range of domains, including psychology and sociology; herein the significance of the study lies.

Research question

The key research question concerns the analysis of the ways, in which textiles help people overcome grief or an emotional misbalance. It will also be imperative to find out whether the textile provides emotional relief for the people that touch it because of the ability of a textile to retain the smell of its previous owner, which, in its turn, is the effect of the material construction. In addition, the research is aimed at determining whether the faceted structure of textile, which allows for retaining the so-called VOC (volatile organic compounds) from escaping the fibre, serve as the only reason for people to engage in reminiscences and have an experience that is similar to an emotional connection with the owner of the clothes.

Alternatively, it can be suggested that the necessity to experience the sensation of textile products is based purely on tactile functions and the reminiscences that the aforementioned experiences trigger in the human brain. In other words, once the emotional contact with a certain person is no longer possible, touching the textile products that are associated with a specific person becomes an essential part of the life of the person that does not have another opportunity to communicate with the owner of the textile.

This, therefore, begs the question of whether the emotional satisfaction and comfort that textile provides in such cases can be viewed as a result of the overall pleasant tactile experience. In other words, is the ability of a textile to provide comfort irrelevant to the memories that are related to it and only concerns the properties of the material?

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Research Background

Although the phenomenon of textile’s capacity for sustaining people’s memories of friends and relatives, as well as providing comfort, is quite well-known, little research has been done on the topic. The same can be said about the link between textile and the memories that the latter trigger in the people, who have suffered a major loss. While some impressive studies have been done on the subject matter a few decades ago, including Engen’s analysis of odours and memory (Engen 1991, p. 2), the fact that textile may spur reminiscence in the people, who have lost their family members or friends, has not been investigated in detail (Giles & van der Linden, 2014).

Literature review

The ability of textile and the products made of textile to provide emotional satisfaction to the people, who have suffered a loss of their friends or family members and, therefore, need to regain emotional stability, has been known for quite long (Wang & Chen 2008, p. 44). According to the existing researches on the topic, people relate to textiles when they need to experience emotional, physical and aesthetic satisfaction in most cases (Liu 2013).

Traditionally, the process of feeling a piece of textile is identified as a set of “complex multi-sensory, emotional and cognitive experiences” (Moody et al. 2011, p. 192). The mere act of running one’s fingers across the fabric immediately triggers a certain mental process involving reminiscences of similar experiences: “A memory is stirred, an emotion, feeling and association is evoked and a decision is made, an impression becomes embossed in the mind” (Moody et al. 2011, p. 192).

As a rule, people seek tactile experiences in general and the sensation of certain types of textiles in particular when they need to rekindle specific emotional experiences and launch an emotional engagement process; Liu (2013) claims that gestural interaction with textiles does affect the emotional involvement of a person experiencing the sensation. Nevertheless, the link between the emotional satisfaction experienced by the people, who have sensed textile belonging to the beloved person, and the properties of the material, is quite possible. The above-mentioned phenomenon can be explained by the tactile-emotion synaesthesia (Ramachandran & Brang 2008). In other words, the touch of certain material evokes memories in people due to its specific texture and unique ability to retain the VOC defined above.

It could also be argued that the colour specifics of textiles play a major role in stirring people’s emotions in the process of contact with the textiles in question. At this point, the concept of synaesthesia factors in; while the colours alone may not trigger any particular reminiscences, the combination of colours, sensation of warmth, possibly some volatile organic compound (Kumar et al., 2012), etc., create the environment, in which the process in question can be launched (McCabe 2010, p. 63).

As far as emotional attachment is concerned, the issue seems far more complicated (Peters 2014, p. 75). While it is obvious that people losing a friend or a relatively long search for an emotional attachment as a replacement for the one that they have lost, it would be wrong to claim that the mere scent of the person, whom they miss, will satisfy their quench for the continuation of the relationship that was valued so high (Blodgett 2010, p. 165).

After all, there are many ways of creating an illusion of communication with the diseased person, or the person that has left for an unidentifiable period, including revisiting old video or audio records, viewing pictures of the person specified, etc. (Engen 1991, p., p. 17) However, it is the textile that gives the utmost satisfaction and the sense of warmth that people need to re-establish the lost link (Ramachandran & Brang 2008, p. 391). Textile allows for experiencing the physical interaction with the person missing, which visual and audio records cannot offer (Grębosz & Wrońska, 2013, p. 8).

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The action plan for the first year will include gathering the required resources, locating the variables, defining the relationships between them and providing a list of results, therefore, either proving the hypothesis or determining its falsehood. To collect the required data, the researcher will design questionnaires and distribute them among the target demographics.


The research concerning the circumstances, in which people feel the need to relate to textiles, as well as the ways, in which textiles may provide comfort to such people, will be carried out with the help of a qualitative method; to be more specific, general research as an overview of the existing resources on the topic will be provided. Thus, it will be possible to embrace the entire range of evidence on the topic, at the same time identifying the circumstances, under which people crave to feel textile. The methods adopted will help analyze how people cope with their loss with the help of tactile experiences with textile, as well as locate the possible scenarios for therapy sessions, which will contribute to releasing people from the agony of losing the ones that they loved.

To be more specific, the patterns of responses towards tactile experiences will be recorded carefully in the experimental group. Afterwards, these responses will be analyzed and the key factors will be located. Finally, tests will be carried out to check the initial assumptions and come up with conclusions and recommendations.

Reference List

Blodgett, B 2010, Remembering smell: a memoir of losing and discovering the primal sense, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY.

Engen, T 1991, Odor sensation and memory, Greenwood Publishing Group, Santa Barbara, CA.

Giles, E & van der Linden, J 2014, ‘Using eTextile objects for touch based interaction for visual impairment,’ ASGA2014 Atelier of smart garments and accessories, Seattle, WA.

Grębosz, M & Wrońska, B 2013, ‘Sensory impact on the purchase of textile products,’ Fibers and Textiles in Eastern Europe, vol. 2, no. 98, 8–12.

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Kumar, VD, Boopathi, N, Karthick, N & Ramesh, P 2012, ‘Aesthetic finishes for home textile materials,’ International Journal of Textile Science, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 5–9.

Liu, U 2013, Behavioural, emotional and perceived material changes evoked by auditory cues in surface interaction, University College, London, UK.

McCabe, M L 2010, Color and sound: synaesthesia at the crossroads of music and science, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Moody, W, Morgan, R, Dillon, P, Barber, C & Wing, A 2011, Factors underlying fabric perception, in C.Baber et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eurohaptics 2001 conference (pp. 192–201), Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

Peters, E 2014, ‘The mnemonic qualities of textiles: sustaining lifelong attachment,’ Craft + Design Inquiry, vol. 1, no. 6, pp. 75–93.

Petreca, B, Bianchi-Berthouze, N, Baurley, S, Watkins, & Atkinson, D 2013, ‘An embodiment perspective of affective touch behaviour in experiencing digital Textiles,’ Humaine Association Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII), pp. 770–775.

Ramachandran, V S & Brang, D 2008, ‘Tactile-emotion synesthesia,’ Neurocase, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 390–399.

Wang, CX & Chen, SL 2008, ‘Aromachology and its application in the textile field,’ Fibers and Textiles in Eastern Europe, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 41–44.