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Sentimental Value and the Cognitive Conscious

cc's picture

Imagine: a large garbage bag, clearly full of unwanted items such as used clothes, books, and maybe the occasional string of Christmas lights.  Just a big pile of junk.  Peeping through the top of the bag, a pair of melancholy eyes follow your gaze.  It’s a stuffed bear.  The stitched mouth seems to form a sad smile, as if to say, “Please take me...  I can be your friend.”  What is it about the oddly shaped pieces of fabric, stitched together and stuffed with cotton, with two button “eyes” and a sewed on mouth that make us feel sorry for the abandoned toy?

It could be that we associate such an object with small children, who are often seen dragging a stuffed animal along as they happily waddle after their parents.  Furthermore, when we think of such a child, we also think of the reason the toy is sitting at the top of a heap of trash: the child has grown up, and outgrown his childhood friend.  The soft body that comforted him during those scary thunderstorms, that kept him company when the adults were having their special “big people time,” that was the only one who played with him when all his other friends were sick and couldn’t come over.  How could anyone leave such a friend in a mass of garbage?

Chances are, when we see a stuffed animal deserted and stranded in an island of rubbish, the toy probably does not have much sentimental value.  Perhaps it was a gift from an unwanted secret admirer.  Or an art project that was over and done with.  Why, then, do people think of the child who has outgrown and abandoned his childhood best friend?

This is similar to the cognitive conscious, or storyteller, we learned about in class.  We have a blind spot in each of our eyes, and our brain fills that spot in with an attempt to be coherent by taking in the patterns that surround the blind spot.  It’s like filling in the blank.  It may not be the right answer, but it is an answer that makes sense.

So where do people get the “answer” of the child abandoning his friend?  Most people as children had an object they would carry around with them.  That object is usually a stuffed animal or doll of some sort, and it bears sentimental value.  Sentimental value itself is another branch of the storyteller.  An object is an object, so why relate your memories and feelings with it?  Because the object was there in the past, the brain will “fill in the blank” and relate it to those past stories.

There are also people who do not think of the stuffed bear as a deserted friend; they might think of the other possibilities such as it being a useless present.  Possibly the cognitive unconscious part of the brain influences such people to think this way; maybe their personality is more logical, or maybe they just don’t dwell on objects with sentimental feelings.

Sentimental value is simply explained by the cognitive conscious part of the brain attaching memories and feelings to a specific object.  For those who do not connect random objects and emotions together, the cognitive unconscious probably has affected the personality so that he or she does not quite care for such things.  That child’s toy sitting on top of the mound of garbage?  It’s just a rather large collection of cotton.


Paul Grobstein's picture

the brain and teddy bears

The stuffed bear is a lot like the baby in the Ganges that plays a role in thinking about relativism.  In who's story is it "just a rather large collection of cotton"?