For our English-Speaking friends

Joachim Funke & Heike Gerdes


Jelly-bear research: could that be true? Yes, it could! Since 1995, an ever increasing number of researchers is doing intensive research on our small friend, the jelly-bear (in German "Gummibär"). Because almost of this research is published in German language, this paper will give a short report on the history and a review on the different papers.

How did it start?
The whole enterprise started in November 1995, when we both (HG & JF) were frustrated about our own research. Working as researchers in the Psychology Department of Bonn University, we were as usual running one of our psychological experiments and were disappointed about human subjects not showing up. Our glucose level went down and we eat some jelly-bears to make us more happy. The nice jelly-bears: available on almost every researcherís desk (some hide them in their drawers), being the researchers best friends! But, hey, what do we know about our best friends? A short search into scientific literature made clear: there was no research on jelly-bears up to now, in 1995! So, instead of waiting for human subjects which did not show up, we decided to start our first research with those subjects which were easily available for us.

Heike started with a beautiful study on "Dreams of Jelly-Bears". She quickly developed an instrument for measuring jelly-bearís dreams, and, even better, for visualizing them. For the first time in life, insight into this hidden area was possible! (Heike is still working on her invention, because she wants to use it also for humans, but things turned out to be a little bit more complex with our species ...).Then Joachim came over with nice results on the problem solving abilities of jelly-bears. In his paper "Komplexes Problemlösen bei den Bärchen", he could demonstrate the remarkable abilities of the jelly-bears in face of very complex situations. Whereas human subjects in such situations are prone to confused and emotional actions with many errors (see Dörner, 1996, The logic of failure. Recognizing and avoiding error in complex situations. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley), the jelly-bears remained calm and stable even under worst circumstances and catastrophes. One of his recommendations was to increase the influence of jelly-bears in political decision making and catastrophe management. With respect to actual political events in Germany (Kohl-gate CDU disaster), this recommendation is quite interesting: because jelly-bears appear to be free of any personal interests, they would not run the danger of. becoming corrupted. The ethics of political actions might be increased only in this way.

After the two initial papers had been published on the internet (to that time under the address of, other colleagues from psychology joined the research team. And again, after some time, also researchers from other disciplines made important contributions to the jelly-bear research. Nowadays, we have a huge amount of studies on such diverse topics like neurosurgery, psychotherapy, literature science, marketing research, sexual fantasies, evolutionary aspects, social psychology, chemical research, physics of the jelly-bears, hearing abilities, their musical interest, sport science, etc.

The following review will present you a selection of research results sorry that we do not find the time to translate the articles. If any of the readers has the capacity to do this, we would encourage those persons strongly to contact us but, sorry, because this type of research is not sponsored by any funding agency or by a commercial interest, we could offer no money for this work!

Sexual fantasies
Nicola Döringís research on the "Sexual Fantasies of the Jelly-Bears" offers insight into one of the darker areas. First, she collected different types of fantasies. Second, she analysed the reasons for having those fantasies.

Concerning the different types, she found out that some of the bears want to have sex with the "big bag gluer", i.e., the person who glues the packets together. Others dream of wild orgies, another dream is to have sex behind aluminium paper. Also, some dream of sticks of licorice ...

Concerning the reasons for those dreams, Nicola wrote about frustrations of the bears, about isolated bears being in bags long forgotten, and about the transport conditions, where all the rambling and shaking gives good reasons for sexual fantasies.

Marlene Endepohls and Joachim Funke did some research on the issue of psychotherapy with jelly-bears. Starting point was the observation that many bears entered the rooms of the psychotherapists but were never seen again.

Anyway: as with humans, also jelly-bears are subject to psychic illness. Depression, phobic reactions, or sexual abuse are quite familiar symptoms within these species. For example, during carnival it is common practice in Germany to throw jelly-bears into the crowd during the carnival processions. Therefore it is no wonder that the bears react phobically if they see shoes of listen to carnival music. Also pictures of the human mouth and of teeth make most of the bears cry and should (even if this reaction is not easily recognized by humans). They also give advice to the treatment team about the proper equipment for individual or group therapy.

Even if no controlled studies about the success of these treatments are available up to now, we are sure that the proposed interventions will help our little friends.