The feeling that you get from that,” she says, “isn’t so different from a real relationship”– that is, one with a human counterpart. Across social media, collectors speak openly of the special bond one can develop with certain reborns, as well as the grieving period that sometimes follows once a doll is let go (as with many collecting hobbies, reborns are commonly bought then sold or swapped out, changing hands within the community). In reborn relationships, St Hilaire sees promising implications for the future of artificial intelligence and forms of non-human or humanoid companionship.
Then, there’s the biological response that’s triggered when handling a realistically proportioned, lifelike baby doll. Studies suggest that doll therapy can reinforce feelings of attachment and emotional wellbeing in some patients with dementia. Many reborn collectors similarly point to the therapeutic benefits of their dolls for managing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

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