A cabinet perfectly shaped for the storage of Kleenex boxes. A stack of quarters that fits exactly into a roll of tape, which itself fits exactly into a little tin canister. February 2015. Each of these items are near-perfect examples of a photography genre you might call things that fit perfectly into other things — the subject of a popular Tumblr and many a Buzzfeed post — and over at The Atlantic today, health editor Julie Beck explores the psychology of why so many people seem to find these images so soothing.
The reasons are mostly what you might expect: It’s about finding a little bit of peace and order in a chaotic world, for one. But it also could be because these images upend our expectations — what are the odds that two unrelated things could fit together as if they were made to do so? It’s a pleasing surprise. “Suddenly you see things in a different relationship and it challenges your expectations about how things relate to each other,” Johan Wagemans, an experimental psychologist at the University of Leuven, told The Atlantic.
Taking that idea one step further, I’d add that these images also suggest a sense of belonging, a very comforting thing indeed in a sometimes-lonely world. If every inanimate thing seems to belong perfectly somewhere, maybe that’s true for every person, too. It’s a nice thought, anyway. Now, enjoy this picture of a toucan who is sitting in the hollow of a tree that looks as if it was created explicitly for him.