Recently, the manufacturers of Bubble Wrap, the alarmingly addictive packaging that was apparently a brand name all along,announced that they would be redesigning their product. The new version — the horror— will not pop. As Jaime Fuller notes on Daily Intelligencer, the newly imagined product will be called iBubble Wrap, “its Rice Krispies-esque melodies replaced by bubbles that transfer air between one another so they never deflate.”
This raises an important question: What, exactly, was ever so satisfying about popping Bubble Wrap, anyway? As it happens, Kathleen M. Dillon, now psychology professor emerita at Western New England College, published a study in the journal Psychological Reports back in the early 1990s investigating this.
A relatively light topic for scientific investigation, to be sure, but in her write-up, Dillon defends her inquiry with some surprising heft, quoting a 1970s tome about the calming powers of touch: “In ancient Greece it was customary, and is still in so much of Asia, to carry a smooth-surfaced stone, or amber, or jade, sometimes called a ‘fingering piece.’ Such a ‘worrybead,’ as it is also named, by its pleasant feel, serves to produce a calming effect. The telling of beads by religious Catholics seems to produce a similar result.” Dillon adds that keeping your hands busy with little projects like needlework is considered relaxing, and suggests that attacking a sheet of Bubble Wrap might work in the same way.
Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s just that those little pops are really, really fun to hear. “It’s compulsive,” Dillon once told the New York Times. “I’ve seen secretaries fighting for it — Give me that. It’s obviously something that’s desirable and addictive at some level.”
PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORTS via NY MAG