The Frontal Cortex

Wrapping Presents

I hope everyone had a lovely and merry Christmas. I’ve got a post-Christmas question: What cognitive skills are required for present-wrapping? Spatial logic? An intuitive sense of geometry? A belief in neatness? All of the above? I only ask because I am clearly missing whatever skills are required.


  1. #1 Rachael
    December 26, 2007

    I would suggest that the major requisite is “having nothing else to do with your time” – how important is the present wrapping to you?

    I spent the days before christmas this year cutting out and taping little choo-choo trains, snowflakes and decorated trees to the front my little niece and nephew’s gifts. If I had actually had other items on my to-do list, it wouldn’t have happened…

  2. #2 peggy
    December 26, 2007

    I once got fired from a job because my gift-wrapping skills were not up to speed. The upside is that I decided to go to graduate school rather than work at jobs that required this particular competency.
    Today, here’s how I get around the problem:
    1) If you feel you must wrap, buy everyone books, CDs or DVDs. From a wrap standpoint, these are pretty much no brainers.
    2) Otherwise, put whatever gift you are giving into the bag it came in and tape or staple the top to conceal the contents.
    3) Have it gift-wrapped at the point of purchase and just hope the person wrapping is not contemplating graduate school as the only viable escape from a life of wrapping.

  3. #3 Lydia
    December 26, 2007

    What’s the neurology for Competitiveness? You have to really want your presents to look better than everyone else’s. I’m practically Martha Stewart in this regard.

  4. #4 Elizabeth, MD, PhD
    December 27, 2007

    The best skill for wrapping presents is disguising them in boxes or packages that make the actual gift not imaginable as certainly some of the joy is the complete surprise of receiving something wanted yet totally unexpected given the package it came in. It is simple. A book in a tin square, or a movie / show gift certificate in an old book. Roll a shirt around a long dowel and no one will expect a nice shirt to appear… that’s half the fun!

    When COORS was new and hard to get on the EAST Coast, I packed a six pack one on top of another so it looked like some sort of case for a pool cue or violin bow… complete surprise when Coors appeared.

    Once when a student, I told my parents I could not make it home from New England to Pennsylvania because of the storm (when I was already just about 1 mile away)… a few hours later, a complete surprise when I rang the door bell and stood there with a bow on.

    If you are giving a big size present, just wrap a small part of it. If something like a monopoly game, just the tokens, or the game board… leave the guessing and surprise as part of the present… people will always remember that.


  5. #5 John V. Jackson
    December 30, 2007

    What’s needed for any ability is not so much a skill as practice – and enthusiasm 🙂

  6. #6 Alex
    January 2, 2008

    We were supposed to wrap the presents?

  7. #7 maya
    January 3, 2008

    i’ve always been intrigued as well by this seemingly minor detail of the holidays. even now, after five years of me living halfway across the country, mom still waits for me to get home to do the wrapping. its one of those weird little things i’m good at – wrapping presents, folding clothes (high praise indeed during my brief but memorable stint at Urban Outfitters)… i’m not good at a lot of things. calculus, push-ups, remembering to fill my gas tank. but i’m really good at taking neat notes, crossword puzzles, working through conceptual social phenomena, i’ve even started to be able to think partially in spanish (some of the time). and i can wrap presents really well. i have good spatial reasoning, i think, but no depth perception (ref. my parallel parking skills). i am weirdly obsessive-compulsive about some minor things, but it’s an all-or-nothing phenomenon: if it can’t be perfect then forget it. i rarely make my bed, but when i was little, it had to be just so. same with folding clothes. just ask my roommates. they are so sick of nagging me to straighten up, but when i do, it’s like we’ve moved to someone else’s apartment.

    my little brother hates wrapping. almost as much as he hates my mocking of his lack of wrapping skills. he’s brilliant, was reading existential philosophy at seventeen, is a talented musician, AND likes math, which i never really got into (i was never bad at it, just never bothered to get better). he can draw, but can’t write in cursive. and for the life of him, he can’t fold even basic t-shirts without major issues.

    so, i guess i don’t know the answer. but it’s one of those funny little questions that provokes interesting and entertaining anecdotes and musings about talent and skills, and what we value.

    thanks, again, for a great posting.

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