Chubby Bunny

You know that phenomenon when you learn something new, purchase something new, or try something new and then you start to see it or hear people talking about it everywhere?

It’s not really a phenomenon as much as it is observing the world around you based on what has caught your current interest, but that’s not the point.

The point is, in the last week or two I have read a lot about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.

I saw a comment about it first on Facebook. Two days later, I was reading Bringing Up Bebe and there was a portion dedicated to it there, and then I think Sweet Mother referenced it in something I can’t find now so I’m linking to her site.

If you haven’t heard anything about the marshmallow experiment, it is a study of pre-schoolers and their ability to delay gratification. It has been around for 40 years or so and was created by Walter Mischel.

During this experiment, children are put in a room with a marshmallow. The person conducting the experiment tells the child that they are going to leave the room for a while. The child is told that if they can wait until the person returns without eating the marshmallow they will get two marshmallows to enjoy. I didn’t research this heavily, but I did read that the average time a four-year old could last in a room alone with a marshmallow without eating it was 1 minute. Of the 653 children who participated in the original study, 1 in 3 were able to wait the full 15 minutes and receive their reward.

The children who were able to resist the temptation were said to be good delayers. Bad delayers focused on the marshmallow until they eventually succumbed to the temptation and good delayers distracted themselves from temptation by singing songs or making a game out of it.

The Broccoli Test or The Fish Taco Test would have yielded vastly different results in children.

A possible explanation for poor results in the marshmallow test in American children. credit: derekmunson.wordpress.com

When I hear about the marshmallow test, I immediately think of a game that I played a lot as a kid at church functions or birthday parties called Chubby Bunny.

The object of the game Chubby Bunny is to shove marshmallows into your mouth one at a time and say Chubby Bunny after each marshmallow. You continue this until you can no longer say the words, or asphyxiate. I’m not kidding, at least two people have died playing this game. The person who can hold the most marshmallows in their mouth and still say the words or not die wins.

The association between the two marshmallow games made me think about addiction.

I think most people can identify with addiction in some way. Whether yours is caffeine, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, food, blogging, social media, your smart phone, attention, etc. we all have a marshmallow that would be difficult to resist in this setting if it was placed before us. Put an adult who is in week one of trying to quit smoking in a room with a cigarette and a lighter, and I would bet that most of them would not last the full 15 minutes, even if they were promised two cigarettes at the end of the wait.

With addiction, we pervert something simple that gives us pleasure into a compulsion that ends up controlling us. Detoxing from whatever your addiction might be requires time and attention, and a lot of treating yourself like a bad delaying toddler with a marshmallow until you finally put some distance between yourself and your compulsion.

But it’s easy to slip into an addiction without really realizing it is happening. You go from having a pretty easy time sitting in a room with your marshmallow to playing Chubby Bunny with it until you choke on it.

My brother said something to me about addiction once that stuck with me. He said, “Of course I still want to, even ten years later (I think we were talking about nicotine at the time), and then…I don’t do it.”

If this statement offends you (as it offended me when he said it while I tried in vain to break my own addiction to nicotine) or sounds like a grossly oversimplified way of dealing with addiction, then I’ll let you in on a little secret. You probably aren’t ready to give up whatever it is you’re trying to give up.

For those who are successfully recovering from an addiction, this little nugget of wisdom is probably a big part of your ongoing success. It has certainly been true with the addictions that I’ve overcome in my life and the ones that I still wrestle every day.

I have to treat myself and my mind like that of a bad delaying child. I have to make a game out of it and distract myself. Maybe some day, I will work my way through all of my marshmallows and I won’t have to replace one addiction with another like WordPress stats. That’s the dream anyway, and while I can’t really know how well I would have fared with this test as a four-year old, I think I can safely assume based on my adult behaviors that I would have landed squarely in the bad delayer group.

Do you have an addiction you are struggling with today? Have you fully made up your mind to stop this behavior, or are you still alternating between “being good” and playing a nice game of Chubby Bunny with your marshmallow?

I’m struggling with something today that I really don’t want to give more power to by writing about it specifically.

But immersing myself in writing around it this morning is a personal delay tactic to avoid the other compulsion.

Hitting publish on my post now.

Chubby Bunny.

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43 thoughts on “Chubby Bunny

  1. I was never invited to any function that involved gorging on mashmallows. I think I need to expand my horizons. As for addictions, I’m currently trying to rid my world of pop (soda, cola, whatever you call it). I call it an addiction because water is cheaper and avaiable right next to the vending machine, but I always choose the pop — most of the time without even thinking twice. It’s not easy… old habits never are…

    • You have missed out on a fun game then. I never could say Chubby Bunny (or anything with a mouth full of marshmallow) without laughing, so there was no danger of me winning this game. I’m still working up to giving up the pop. By the way, here in Texas, we call all soda Coke regardless of the brand. That seems weird when I type it.

    • Ah, yes, I’m from Texas too, and it’s coke. Everything’s coke. Actually, for me, drinking cokes is like doing coke. I really like my cokes. I also like junk food. And checking my wordpress stats and blogging or writing instead of going outside or doing my work.

      I never played Chubby Bunny, but I did do the bit where you hold as many red hots in your mouth as you can for as long as you can. And my brother and I microwaved marshmallows to see what would happen.

      Basically, I have less self-control than a four-year-old, probably.

  2. What a crazy “game.” I think my addiction would be getting stuck in a “certain way of thinking” that is hard to get out of once I am in it. It’s kind of my version of eating my feelings. As always, thanks for making me think!

    • It was pretty crazy. That’s a good one, it’s hard to get out of patterns of thinking. I’m stuck in a lot of those myself. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Well, I definitely know I’m addicted to blogging now (and it really didn’t take long at all for that to happen). I’m right there in the “bad delayer” group. As I am obviously one to easily get addicted, I shall take heed and remain well clear of Chubby Bunny!

  4. I think the marshmallow delay game is dumb. It only goes to prove that you can torture someone in delaying what they might enjoy and want, with something your going to give them anyway. Here have this, but wait. Just look at it, and if you just look at it, I’ll double it up. Why? Why do I get more for waiting 15 minutes? Do I even want two?

    Especially in young children who’s 15 minute time span lasts like an hour for adults.

    So is it teaching that waiting is better? Tell that to anyone looking through the clearance aisle at Target for that item they debated on yesterday that is no longer there today.

    I say Carpe Diem my children. And I say it with a mouthful of marshmallows.

    • I like your reasoning here. Carpe Diem indeed. I think the idea that waiting is better is the point, and children who can control their love for marshmallow probably exhibit better impulse control as adults, but I don’t know a lot of four year olds with amazing impulse control. We learn it as we grow up along with everything else.

  5. Addictions come in so many forms. I’ve always been grateful I never succumbed to alcohol or nicotine. Ha! Sugar and caffeine are going to kill me if I don’t get a handle on them soon. And I love marshmallows, but I eat the miniatures. I need to see a picture of that lovely child with a million miniatures in his mouth.

  6. This post is just another example of why I chose the word ‘talented’ for you over on my blog. Such wisdom and insight cloaked in humor.

    And I had to laugh, because I JUST read about the marshmallow test in “Bringing up Bebe” last night; I kid you not. I like the book, but honestly, so far what I’ve read is not French parenting, it’s common sense parenting. I get the feeling that the author’s experience of ‘American’ parenting comes from an elite urban environment and not from what’s the norm. At least I hope not. Of course you shouldn’t give into your child’s every desire; of course you should allow them to learn to sooth themselves to sleep before scooping them up at the slightest murmur; of course you should set limits and be okay with telling them ‘no’ at times. I’d be interested to know what you think of it. Perhaps I’m being too harsh?

    • Thank you!
      I haven’t finished it yet because a lot of it does seem like common sense. I would agree that her views on American parenting definitely sound like the elite urban environment, but it has made me a little more aware of my own tendancy to give K whatever she wants immediately (mostly in public) to avoid tantrums, etc. As with everything, moderation seems to be the key. I don’t think you’re being too harsh. It is an interesting comparison of parenting styles, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an accurate depiction of your average American parent today, any more than I think it depicts the “norm” for all French (Parisian) parents.

  7. I’ve never actually played Chubby Bunny, but then I didn’t even hear about it until last year. It is probably a good thing because stale marshmellows are one of my addictions.

    While delayed gratification has its rewards it can also be taken too far. I have taught it to my children (some being better at it than others) and used it myself. However, I have delayed many of the things that I want until I don’t want anything. What use to be a great motivating technique has now become null and void because I can live without just about anything. Don’t get me wrong, I have my addictions and there are times I go for instant gratification.

    I think any situation in which we find ourselves has a balance point. The challenge is to find it. If we can find our balance we open ourselves up to a life filled with joy.

  8. I took or was forced to take that test when I was a kid, I didn’t fail, I got my couple of Marshmellows, but I think what made me do it was my love for sugar, or addiction, I can’t remember of course, but I remember enjoying the sugar. Nowadays, I have plenty of addictions lol competing on blog contest is one of them, running is the one I can’t and won’t let go, it’s a healthy habit (or is it) but even when I’m on vacation I gotta run, I book the hotels according to the distance of the best place to run, it’s a pain for those who travel with me and don’t run. Baby carrots too, I love baby carrots, are like bubblegum to me.

    • Hmmm…another interesting way to look at it. I’m with you on that blog competition. It brought out some competitive addictions in me too. I wish I could get addicted to running :) Thanks for your input today. I’ve never actually talked to a person who did this test when they were younger, so I find your experience very interesting.

      • I was a extremely active kid, I had all tests done, funny enough at school, they were trying to convince my parents I had issues because I would like to do many things at once. My parents answer was put me through every single sport, it worked like magic. I think I gotta thank them my addiction to running.

  9. Addiction is such a difficult beast to tame. I like to think of it as always there talking to you, whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Some days you can ignore perhaps even forget, and others it is all you hear.

  10. You are blowing my mind with the fact that people have died from Chubby Bunny. And, it’s interesting, isn’t it, how we can be amazing at delaying certain gratification but horrible at delaying other gratification? But as for addiction, I don’t know that I feel comfortable lumping “compulsively checking blog stats” in with “alocholism” for the sheer fact that people probably don’t change their friends or lie to others in order to check their blog stats… but, then again, maybe they do and I stand corrected. Nice post.

    • Yeah, that part was crazy, but snopes says it is true. I think it was even on Oprah. I agree with not lumping all addiction/compulsion into the same category, and I thought about that after I posted this. It wasn’t my intent to compare loving blog stats to overcoming an addiction to alcohol or any other substance in terms of struggle and the effects of those addictions on people’s lives, but more how they can be driven by the same pattern of thinking and how over time it stops being something you like to do, and becomes something you have to do. Which brings up the bigger question for me of when can you properly use the label addiction, and is it over-used?

      • Oh, I can understand what you’re saying about “it stops being something you like to do, and becomes something you have to do.” I don’t know how to answer your question. In my former life in child advocacy, we did lots of social-work-type training. Some experts think that the “addictive personality” is a myth. There are studies that prove addiction changes your brain, so that you literally become hardwired to use your “drug” of choice. It’s actually pretty fascinating what’s all out there. I’m not a recovering alcoholic, but I guess I’m a recovering nicotine addict (9 years clean, thankyouverymuch), and I don’t personally take offense to people saying they’re addicted to {blank}, but it’d be interesting to hear what others think.

      • Congratulations on 9 years clean. Nicotine made me her bitch for years, and I ammended the post to show that. I still struggle with it to be honest. Even after watching my father die from lung cancer, even after quitting smoking while pregnant and breast feeding without much thought to it. It’s embarrassing to even admit that it is still a struggle for me. I’d be interested to hear what others think about it too. I don’t know if addictive personality is a myth or not, but I think we all struggle with something. The degree of that struggle is different for everyone.

  11. Funny that you should end your post the way you did. I struggled with something very heavily, in a very involved way, many years ago. And then, I didn’t. I absolutely made a conscious decision to not have it a part of my life anymore and moved on. But if I ever tried to explain it to people, it wouldn’t be well received.
    Apologies for being cryptic…the bottom line is I agree with you completely.

    • No problem about being cryptic. I understand what you mean, and the desire to keep whatever it was you struggled with private. That decision to move on is one of the hardest ones to make.

  12. Well, I found a few things to comment on. Three most likely. I respect you quite a lot for not sharing your current struggle. I find that oversharing, an addiction for some, never is a good thing, especially if the thing is in progress. Unless you have a shrink, like me. Addiction is wretched. I was at the Mayo Clinic for a month and they took me off of 12 of my perscriptions. The withdrawls lasted a touch over six months, physical and mental. I’m doing great with it now. The difference between addiction and living without it is what keeps most people on the path, no matter the difficulty. And yes, three, chubby bunny. I was having a rough day and my sister and momenchka and I decided to have some fun. The thing is, we had a big ol’ bowl of grapes in front of us. So we chubby bunnied it with grapes. DANGEROUS, and completely hysterical. Best quote: “You know, it isn’t wise to stick hard round things in your mouth.”

    • Thank you!
      I’m sure coming off of those pills was rough. I admire you for being able to do it; even with help, many people who have endured accidents like yours are never able to. I overshare plenty on the blog here, but I’ve never found writing publically about a struggle while it is happening helpful.
      Chubby bunny with grapes does sound dangerous, but I laughed out loud at your story and the quote!

  13. I’ve never heard of the marshmallow test before. That’s really interesting. I think its fascinating how humans generally have the same patterns in behavior, which to me is reinforcement that addition is a very human thing and not just a random flaw. I hope you’re able to get through whatever you’re dealing with soon! :)

    Side note: did you know they’re not letting kids play Chubby Bunny much anymore? Apparently you can die from it because they marshmallows melt and clog the throat. Debby Downer…I know.

  14. I get addicted to things easily, but I think I’m pretty good at delaying gratification when I need to. When I was a kid, also, I was very good at coming up with games to help me do something like clean my room. But a marshmallow? I think I might’ve given in just because 2 marshmallows wouldn’t have been that exciting to me. Two candy bars, on the other hand, I’m sure I would’ve been able to delay gratification for, ha.

  15. First thanks for putting a clinical name (delayed gratification) to the “bribery” my parents raised me on…”be good at this appointment and I will buy you some french fries later”
    and secondly I do believe in an “addictive personality” – meaning some are more apt to become addicted to anything more than others. For those folks it can be a real challenge.

    • I believe in the addictive personality as well. Overcoming any addiction is absolutely a challenge, especially if you are genetically pre-disposed to it. And I think we had a similar “reward” system growing up.

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