Did You Bring a Stuffed Animal to College?

Women bring stuffed animals to college, and men do not.

Posted Nov 04, 2010

Teddy Bear

I learned something interesting the other day in my positive psychology class. I was talking about oxytocin - AKA the cuddle hormone - and its social benefits. Oxytocin is stimulated by human touch, and I believe research has shown a similar effect from contact with pets. I suppose that's why we call them pets - because we can and do pet them. I went off on a tangent about why turtles and goldfish are not pets in the literal sense. My students chuckled a bit, and then one of them asked a great question. "What about teddy bears?"

I said I had no idea, but it would be interesting to conduct a study and find out.

Then I asked how many students brought stuffed animals with them to college. Some large number of the 250 students present raised their hands. Thinking I saw a pattern, I asked for shows of hands separately by females and males. Indeed, there was a striking pattern. About 80% of the females had brought a stuffed animal to college, whereas fewer than 10% of the males had done so - or at last admitted to it. But those few guys who raised their hands earned applause from their female classmates. I think they deserved hugs as well, but we don't do that in classrooms at my university.

This all surprised me, maybe because I am a male. I brought a slide rule and a basketball to college, neither of which I ever cuddled.

What does it all mean? Maybe carrying around a stuffed animal is not a sign of immaturity but something else related to contentment and comfort. With my tongue in my cheek, I wonder if women do better in college than do men because they are more likely to bring stuffed animals with them. Maybe I should write a million dollar grant request to fund a teddy bear intervention with male college students.

Stay tuned.

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