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Psychology and Dolls

Nov 11, 2010

    1. I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, I did a brief search and didn't find anything, so if there is, please feel free to ignore. :)

      So I'm taking Social Psychology this semester, which is a really interesting course, and right now we're talking about beauty and attractiveness. It turns out that when we see attractive faces and bodies, the same pleasure centers in our brains activate that activate when a cocaine user sees cocaine paraphernalia, a hungry person sees food, and an alcoholic sees beer. These are the parts of the brain that control pleasure and addiction.

      Although there are some features that are nearly universally attractive, there is a degree of variation. One thing we know almost for certain is that large eyes are a huge indicator of attractiveness, because they indicate youthfulness, which indicates good health.

      And to clarify, when I say attractive, simply mean "nice to look at," not "must have sex with immediately." As we can find children pleasant to look at and there for be "attracted" to them in the sense that I am using it, without wanting to have sex with them. :) And when I say "nice to look at," I am simply referring to physical features that our brain responds to in a positive way

      But how does this apply to ball-jointed dolls? Well, I think we would all agree that ball-jointed dolls are very pretty, and psychologists that study attractiveness would say that ball-jointed dolls have faces and bodies that are perfectly engineered to make us love them. Their large eyes and perfect body shapes are an exaggerated form of what we are attracted to.

      So is it possible we like looking at ball-jointed dolls because that action activates a part of our brain that feels really, really good? When people say they can't stop looking at dolls, could they actually be serious, can this really become an addiction? Think about people who say that don't play with their dolls, but just like looking at them. Think of the hours (I'm guessing), you've spent pouring over doll photos either on company websites or that people have taken.

      What do you think? I'd love to hear what people think about the psychology behind this hobby. What else comes into play for the reasons why we like to look at dolls, buy them, play with them?

      EDIT: Just to clarify, if you have anything else you would like to share on the topic of psychology and how it relates to this hobby, please do! This isn't the only topic, just one I found interesting.

      2nd EDIT: I deleted some information that doesn't really relate but was just me going off on a tangent about social psych. If you're interested, PM me. :D
    2. The attractive part isn't the only thing that gets people to the job and get people to buy dolls. there is in fact, much, much and much more. I'm so sorry my english isn't good enough to explain what I mean. I really would tell a lot about it since I'm studying psychology for about 6 years. But sadly enough, we don't get any other languages anymore at college :( I'm so sorry! But just know, the atractive part can get people into the hobby, but isn't the only important thing to it!
    3. I know it's not the only thing. The brain is a huge, complex thing and there's no way to really point to one thing and say I bought this doll because of this one neural process, BUT I do think it's interesting to look at what we do know about psychology and think about the possible implications of it.

      And I'm not saying for sure that BJDs do activate the pleasure centers in our brain, because it hasn't been tested experimentally so we can't know for sure. I just thought it was interesting.
    4. Yeah sorry, but I'm a little bit devoted to my job since there are a lot of people who read one thing about psychology and think they know everything and act like they are the greates psychologist on earth (I didn't think that of you though, but it's a little bit of professional deformation ^-^). I then hear them talking to other people and telling what they know, together with things they 'fantasize' to it. That's why I always try to say the tings we really do know in psychology and really have been proved. I really do think it's okay to think about the fact you mentioned earlier! I just missed the part that this fact isn't the only 'true' thing that can be possible.
    5. Hee, it's okay. I completely understand. I'm a psychology undergraduate and I'm planning to get my PhD, so I know how much misinformation gets spread about, especially in magazines and newspapers that should know better!
    6. Huh, interesting. Well, obviously being involved with these dolls does feel good, or we wouldn't shell out hundreds of dollars on them. However, the 'why' may be a lot more complicated. What one person finds attractive in a doll, someone else may not like -- there is a wide range of styles that full under the umbrella of what you see in abjds -- while there are some stylistic threads that run through them all, not every doll has very large eyes or a small nose. Many of the more stylized dolls don't have large lips. There are very masculine boy bodies which some people love, while others are more drawn to slender willowy boys (myself included). Some like very stylized dolls and others don't. People often really go wild with their dolls and have them done up in ways that the average Joe might be surprised by. If you look at doll hobbyists in general, some aren't going to find abjds attractive at all. For the people in this hobby, there is certainly something appealing, but we aren't a large percentage of the overall population.

      For myself, their appearance is what got me into the hobby. However, what really kept me hooked was what I could do with them. Part of what makes them attractive is how much they look like my own characters that I made them into, it's the potential that exists in every doll to be made into a whole little person by it's owner. Mainly, it's the creativity involved. Can dolls become an addiction? Sure, just about anything can become an addiction, though I think to most they would qualify more as a hobby they feel passionately about.

      I'm sure there are some characteristics we as humans are drawn to, because it benefits us evolutionarily speaking. However, I would hesitate to over generalize. There's also a lot of room for individual tastes that can be quite different from each other.

      BTW I like large noses ;)
    7. Well, I guess it goes to the basics of what kind of attraction you are talking about. One type of attraction is that of your ideal beauty that you would like to be more like - kind of like a vicarious satisfaction and a sense of yearning or envy for the beauty that you feel you lack or don't have in certain features. Another type of attraction is the more sexual one - one that you feel when you look at those of the opposite sex (or same sex, depending on your sexual orientation).

      And when you are also including the question, "Do people get dolls that they feel attracted to? Do they get it because they feel that attraction and feel pleasure in doing so?" that's a totally new level, because as others have said, there's so much to this hobby than simple attractiveness and pleasure.

      Anyway, attractiveness is subjective. Some are attractive to others, some are not. Perhaps looking at these dolls do stimulate our brains like you have said. However, I don't think that applies to everyone - for example, my dolls are all cute and childlike - I love looking at them, but I don't think I feel that sort of attractiveness with these dolls, neither the sexual one nor the ideal beauty one. Ugh, it's hard to phrase things and try to explain what I want to say! But anyway, that's the case for me, it might be different for others.
    8. I actually agree with you. BJDs are far more different than they are similar, but I would say there are some commonalities that indicate a certain appeal to our evolutionary preferences. For example, dolls eyes may range from small to large, but I've never seen a doll with eyes that took up less space on their head than an average adult, assuming they have eyes. So they are always the same or larger size. I think the same sort of things can be said for noses and mouths, though I think the eyes are the big one. And eyes are one of the first things women look at (for men it's hips).

      Just to clarify, I'm not trying to say that these things are definitely the way it is. I'm just trying to start a discussion on the way psychology influences this hobby. ;)
    9. It's interesting that you should bring up types of attraction, especially in terms of your cute, childlike dolls, because (so far as I can tell from the research, though I'm certainly not the most informed and we certainly don't know all there is to know about our brains) our brains do not distinguish between different types of attraction. And in fact, youthful, cute, childlike features are the most attractive to us on a brain level because they indicated good health.

      So actually your brain probably does send all sorts of pleasant brain-waves when you look at your dolls, you just interpret them differently because they are not sexually mature (weird to say when talking about a doll), the same way we do when looking at children. Think about how pleasant it is to look at a really cute little kid. I guess I'm trying to say that even though I used the word "attraction" it really is just about things being pleasant to look at, not sexual desire.

      Edit: Oh, and I should say, I DEFINITELY agree that there is much, much more to this hobby than attractiveness. But I feel it's a component that might have an effect.
    10. I think you phrased that wonderfully. I was sitting here trying and trying to think of a way to explain my view on this and failed miserably compared to you. I'm only really interested in the cute child-like dolls, too. So when comparing the type of doll I like to the types of person people find beautiful universally in the first post, I see only one connection, which is the I like big eyes. I personally hate high cheekbones on dolls and humans of either gender. I love big, round, 'chipmunk' cheeks on dolls and humans of either gender.

      I guess I am just drawn to dolls in a way different than the possible options listed in the main post, which seem to imply pure beauty or some sort of sexual attraction. I suppose I should be thankful for that LOL! If I had some sort of sexual attraction to baby-like dolls I think I'd have myself admitted to a mental hospital for fear I am a pedophile. If anything, I'd say they mentally appeal to me more by my maternal instincts with their cuteness than by the 'beauty' or 'sexual' attractiveness. I don't look at baby-like dolls and think even that they're beautiful - I think that they're cute, which is a very, very, very different thing in my mind. It sends a totally different emotion through me than beauty does.
    11. Well, I guess I was thinking more of outward appearance and "sexual" attraction, because of how you mentioned the word "pretty" and also some body/facial features that people feel attracted to. Perhaps you could be right in that I feel attracted to my doll's "youth" and how it subconsciously implies "health" to my brain in reaction to instincts, but I think that's another whole story, especially when you say "things being pleasant to look at," because that makes the picture too big to look at and it's different from "attraction." This "pleasure" is also very subjective. As you said, it varies so much from people to people because they interpret these feelings so differently. There are some people who feel pleasure when looking at, say, dolls that are gore-modded, where as I am not. So I guess to make this thread more focused, we can just focus on the attraction or feeling of pleasure that we feel when looking at physical appearances? Ugh, I don' tknow what I'm saying anymore lol My brain is so dead from writing my thesis from early in the morning. Please forgive me if I don't make sense or consistent.
    12. Arella I think I understand what you're saying is that "pleasant to look at" could mean that features other than the dolls physical appearance (how I interpret their personality, back story, etc.) can be pleasant to look at and therefore fall into my too-broad definition? Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

      I guess I just assumed people would limit how I talked about this to pure physical features, and I'm not quite sure how to clarify my original post :lol:
    13. I think your original post made perfect sense -- but it can be hard to separate personal appearance, character, backstory, experiences had with the doll (ex. I tend to be more bonded to the dolls I do work on), etc. For me a doll is made up of all those things, and all those things together influence how I react to them. It's like, my very favorite dolls in my group don't actually come from my favorite company, because there are all these other factors mixed in that effect how I relate to them.
    14. Taco I understand completely, and it makes perfect psychological sense as well. While an individual being nice to look at may let us initiate an interaction with a person, in general, the more familiar we are with a person, the better we like them so over time the knowledge of the personality becomes more important than their appearance. So I think there would be a similar mechanism for our attachment to dolls. :)
    15. Sorry if I was being too ambiguous with my answers. Your thread post makes perfect sense; I think what got at me was that you mentioned how it is pleasant to see cute little children which symbolizes health and youth, because to me, it's not their child-like features that makes me feel pleasant about their youth, but just the fact that they are children. I am not quite sure if I'd feel that same pleasant feeling if I saw someone who looks child-like and could maybe be mistaken for one but they are in fact adults. So that's why I was wondering if we were thinking about actual physical appearance as opposed to some sort of overall vibe... and I was kind of talking to myself when I said that we should just focus on the attraction towards physical looks (like noses and eyes), because I realized I was over-interpreting lol Interesting subject that is making my brain work!

      And ditto to what Rikka_Mika said! I think it's similar for me too.
    16. For myself, it's not so much looking at my dolls that give me pleasure as it is to continue to refine them as characters and make clothing and accessories for them. Part of this is because I have facial recognition problems (acquired prosopamnesia) due to a stroke. That is to say I can't remember people (i.e. their faces) no matter how hard I try because my brain can't hold the memory of the face stable long enough to embed it in my head. I think my dolls are beautiful (of course I do), but their sculpts are incredibly similar to the mental picture I have of my characters and is why I bought them, so of course seeing a character I created in an actual form would be pleasurable. I think for me, also being able to recognize their faces with the problem I have may be part of the pleasure factor involved with my dolls. Sort of a... triumph against difficult odds thing.

      As to the eye size issue, I can't stand the wide-eyed look in a doll and in some cases, it may make me view the doll in question as less attractive than a doll with more narrow eyes. But I can perfectly understand that as I don't like children. I have one tiny sized doll, but he's a demon and not a child so I don't think that counts. Of course, I could be totally justifying that in my own head.
    17. At the core of the issue, I would say yes. I do agree with everyone pointing out that it is a very complicated issue, but I do enjoy looking at and owning beautiful dolls because it makes me feel good. From an artist's perspective, I highly cherish beauty in all of its innumerable forms.
    18. This is what I was thinking as well. I think that what each individual person is going to find physically appealing about these dolls, is what may initially bring them in, but what will likely hook them is what they find out they can do with them. People who think the dolls are creepy, weird, and whatever obviously aren't going to take the time on their own to find out what these dolls are, and how they can be used, and thus aren't going to show any interest in them. Granted this can change and has.
    19. Im highly motivated by beauty and attraction to things. I love to surround my self with what i consider things of beauty. Art, figurines, dolls, photographs. Appearances and presentation are huge things for me and im often well aware of them. My dolls are pretty much my ideals of male beauty which covers a decent span of features. I have them because they are pretty to look at. I love customizing them, and sewing for them etc, but at the end of the day for me, its cause they are beautiful and i love to look at them and possess them. I get to imprint my beauty ideas on them and for me, im not sure whats more satisfying than that!
    20. Sure, beauty-for-its-own-sake is a real thing. Your brain knows what it likes to look at, and your pleasure-centers reward you when you look at the right things.

      We surround ourselves with things we find beautiful because it gives us that hotbutton Good Feeling to look at it, or be near it. People deck out their home environments with beautiful art, plants, furniture, objets, feng-shui tricks, etc. that tickles their sense of aesthetics, so that they feel good just BEING at home. In my apartment (my walls have this crazy collage-type decor going on), sometimes I like to just stare around at all the nifty stuff I've put on the walls, and let my eye snag on bits of it & enjoy what I see. When I'm not actively playing around with the doll collection, it serves the same purpose; I groove on just looking at the whole thing, all looking fabulous together in my living-room.

      As for the individual dolls, each one is chosen for a different aspect, but I find them all beautiful in different ways. (I am not into baby/child dolls, & looking at them does nothing for me; my brain likes to look at handsome young men, so that's the type of dolls I collect.) And it's most pleasurable to look at them when I've gotten them all dressed/eyed/wigged/accessorized in a really cool way that suits each one. I'm really big on accessorizing, & arranging little details is one of the thing that feeds my sense of beauty!-- so it's like getting to look at new fullset dolls every time I change them around. But then some of them look so perfect that they live in the same hair/eyes/wig for months & months at a time, too, so as far as I'm concerned, this hobby is all in the service of my aesthetic whimsy.