(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

Walter-10_profileHello. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Carol’s brother, Walter. I would like to use my turn on Wordless Wednesday to discuss a concept that I think has been lost in our fast-paced, “me, me, me,” “now, now, now” culture: Delayed Gratification.

For the impulsive among you, delayed gratification is the ability to resist a reward in the immediate in exchange for a future reward. The future reward may be greater than the immediate reward, but not necessarily. Personally, I find that, often, the reward lies in the wait.

Cats are notoriously terrible at delaying gratification.

As an example, every night when I “go to my house” to sleep, my moms give me a biscuit smothered with peanut butter. Rather than attack that biscuit with a vengeance, as my gluttonous brother Sherman does, I let the biscuit sit. All night I keep an eye on that biscuit. Taking a page out of Buddhist philosophy, I contemplate the biscuit’s color and texture. I imagine how much I will savor the creamy peanut butter as it sticks to the roof of my mouth. After dawn breaks and I go outside for my morning constitution, I return to eat the biscuit with a renewed sense of gratitude, contemplating each bite.

walter-delaying-gratification

In contrast, Sherman gobbles down his peanut butter biscuit in two seconds then spends the entire night coveting mine. Dr. Sigmund Freud, my idol [much to Little Mom’s chagrin], would say that Sherman has an under-developed Superego which is too weak to curb his impulsive, pleasure seeking Id. I concur.

The ability to delay gratification is correlated with increased patience, higher intelligence, impulse control, and a commitment to completing tasks. All traits that I possess [until someone gets too close to one of my chewies – then I demonstrate poor behavioral judgment].

A recent study, adding a twist to the original, now-famous 1972 Marshmallow Experiment (where children were offered one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they could wait 15 minutes), revealed that impulse control is affected not only by nature, but also by nurture. Young humans that found themselves in an unreliable environment [one where someone could steal your chewy at any moment?] did not trust the future reward would be available and hence were less likely to delay receiving an immediate reward. Very interesting. I must say that if Sherman and I shared a crate at night, I would devour my biscuit straight away!

If delaying gratification pains you, here are some strategies to make the challenge, well, less challenging:

  1. Distract yourself. Get your mom to play fetch with you. Bark at the neighbor. Chase birds. Chase your sister. Think about something else, anything else. Whatever you do, DON’T think about what it is that you really, really want RIGHT NOW.
  2. I’m all out of ideas. What do you do to curb your impulses?

I hope this week’s Wordless Wednesday has been enlightening [more so, at least, than Sherman’s dribble about “his” chewies and poor Eggnog’s lamentations about having to share OUR moms’ bed]. Thank you for reading!

25 thoughts on “(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

  1. Walter, I’m very impressed with your knowledge and your philosophical musings. I seem to have been given a wrong impression of you by some of your brothers and sisters…oops, maybe I wasn’t supposed to mention that part. Just ignore that comment. I hope that you have the opportunity to write more here as you seem like an informed canine who may have an incredible ability to discuss social issues of relevance.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Deb. I’ve been in analysis for some time now, which has led me to many significant insights. I don’t know what kind of impression the unruly bunch I live with has given you of me, but you would be wise to take them with a grain of salt. (That insight alone took years of therapy.) I’m glad you enjoyed my musings. I do my best to elevate the caliber of Carol’s blog 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Walter you certainly have a BIG brain for such a little snip of a pup. However, you make some valid points about “anticipation” and the reward for being patient. At my age everything operates on “slow” but I think I’ve earned the right to be a little bit “I WANT IT NOW!!!!” so I exercise my right on a regular basis…..like hourly. I hope you will be sharing more of your pithy, philosophical musings here on the blog from time to time.

    Sammy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sammy! I enjoy contributing to Carol’s blog. I must say that for once Eggnog had a good idea with starting this whole Wordless Wednesday thing. As far as being able to delay gratification, I find that felines seem to struggle more than many of us dogs with this skill (though not more than all dogs, as Sherman’s example will attest to).

      My sister, Ethel, takes the cake when it comes to being demanding! And the chips, and the punch, and the cookies… you get the idea. I doubt you’re anything like her — at least you don’t seem to have the mouth of a 19-year-old sailor.

      Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read my post, Sammy!

      Like

  3. Walter, between you and Carol, I am not sure I have ever encountered a household with so many insightful resident quadruped social scientists. Your explanation of complex subjects is clear and thoughtful, and your own patience when presented with a peanut-butter enhanced biscuit is very admirable.
    Although I have been told that I have a large-ish vocabulary for a dog, I must admit that the terms “patience” and “delayed gratification” mean nothing to me. At least when it comes to food, I am much like the General. Perhaps my early life included an atmosphere of uncertainty about the future, and those old ways of thinking are deeply engrained.
    I look forward to future sessions with you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello, Albert. You certainly strike me as a very intelligent canine. While impulse control is correlated with intelligence, there is no evidence of causation, so your struggles with patience do not preclude you from having developed a markedly high IQ. The General, on the other hand, is too busy contemplating chewies and which stuffed animal he wants to get from the toy basket next to have time left to exercise his brain in any significant way.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post! Carol’s always going on to us about you and how much she enjoys your blog, so you set the bar very high!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An exceptional post, Walter. I appreciated especially your real-life practice of mindfulness vis-a-vis the biscuit (I am not sure I would do so well, given the peanut butter) and was fascinated by the link to the marshmallow study. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why, thank you! My Little Mom says the same thing as you but about chocolate. She can’t get enough!

      I’m glad you found the study interesting – I did as well. Clearly delayed gratification is a challenge to animals of many species!

      Like

  5. Do you “contemplate the biscuit’s color and texture” all night, or does it take you all night to realize the biscuit is nothing to be afraid of? (We have been told that you have a tendency to be a little… cautious, shall we say.) Or… Are you pretending to delay gratification so that you can torment Sherman with your biscuit? Hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    • What has Carol been telling you? I guess I need to read her blog more frequently. Of course that would require being able to get on the computer, which is nearly impossible when you live with Steve and Carol.

      It’s true, I do find dinner time somewhat threatening. But it’s the plate that terrifies me, not the food. If only the food wasn’t served on a plate! You see, my biscuit is unencumbered by such trappings as dinnerware.

      And I do concede that I draw at least a little pleasure from watching Sherman salivate over my waiting biscuit. Who wouldn’t?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Walter! Loved your post! Sorry, I’ve gotten behind on my reading of late, so am playing catch up this week. Though I am Holly’s Mom, I give the keyboard over to her, so she can comment.

    Hey Walter! It’s easy to distract one’s self! I just chase the cats. Hey, what can be more fun or distracting than that?!?! When that doesn’t work I grab some random piece of clothing left on the floor, or the occasional dropped paper towel, and abscond with it. Drives my Mom crazy! Then again, it benefits her, too, as she then runs around the house trying to get said item away from me. I get to play AND be distracted, and she gets a work out. Win/Win! Heck, sometimes I go 24-36 hours without eating. Oh, Mom always has the food there for me, but I find there is just so much more to be interested in than that food bowl. Mom constantly says she’s never had a dog as uninterested in food as I am. My weakness? Cat food. I know. I know. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but there you have it. It just smells so good! Unfortunately, my human is intelligent and puts the cat bowls up where I can’t reach them. Sigh…………but every now and then she gets clumsy and spills an entire bowl on the floor! Eureka! I do my happy dance while Iquickly gobble up as much feline kibble as is possible before Mom shoos me away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Holly’s Mom and Holly! So nice of you to visit. Holly, it sounds like you have some excellent tactics for distracting yourself — and others!

      Like you, I draw great pleasure from chasing the cats, particularly Carol. I also enjoy eating their food. I don’t understand why that bothers humans so? If they tried it, they’d see how good it really is! And at least I’m not eating their poop like Sherman does whenever he gets a chance! I hope you don’t do that! It’s quite unsanitary.

      Thanks for stopping by and keep up the good work!

      Like

      • Eat cat poop? Never! But you haven’t LIVED until you’ve eaten horse poop! My human’s daughter rides horses. It can be heaven at the barn with all that horse poop and hoof trimmings to chew on! You simply must try it sometime! As for cat food…………my Mom “says” it’s bad for me. I tend to think that is just an excuse, but what can you do? She’s pretty cool besides that, so………

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never tried horse poop, but I’m not sure I’d like to start now. You probably should listen to your Mom; however, in my experience moms like to say no a lot. So maybe you should just go ahead and eat the horse manure. I don’t know. I can always see both sides of an issue. It’s a blessing and a curse!

        Liked by 1 person

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