It's no surprise that soft materials are more pleasing to the touch than rough ones, but a recent study found that they can actually improve the cognitive and emotional skills of older adults. In the research, published in the October 2012 issue of Geriatrics and Gerontology International, participants were divided into three groups, each of which completed twice-weekly activities that involved working with either a piece of velvet, canvas or Velcro. After 10 weeks, participants in the velvet group had increased verbal fluency and emotional competence and decreased negative emotions, whereas those in the Velcro group had the opposite results. (There was no change in the canvas group.)
This study is the first ever to look at how touching different materials affects well-being, so the researchers do not yet know how the phenomenon works, but they hypothesize that the association between soft materials and positive memories may be to thank.