The Origin of Tradition: A Monkey Experiment

I got this in an email, and it was so interesting that i had to share it on my blog. I don't know if the experiment it describes has actually been carried out, but even if it is merely hypothetical, it does raise some thought-provoking questions.

I have translated the urdu text beneath the pictures for those who don't understand the language.

How traditions and customs are born?

A group of scientists put 5 monkeys in a cage. In that cage they also placed a ladder and some bananas on top of it.

Whenever a monkey began to climb that ladder, the scientists started sprinkling water on the monkeys standing below.

After this event, whenever a monkey tried to climb that ladder driven by the desire to eat bananas, the monkeys standing below did not allow him to climb.

After a while, despite the lure of bananas, no monkey had the courage to climb that ladder.

The scientists decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing the new monkey did was to climb the ladder but immediately the other monkeys began to beat him. After many beatings the new monkey decided that he would not climb the ladder even though he didn't know why.

The scientists replaced a 2nd monkey, and the same thing happened with him. The interesting thing is that the monkey who had been replaced before him was among the monkeys who were beating the new monkey. The 3rd monkey was replaced, and he too went through the same fate. Eventually all the monkeys were replaced and everyone of them got a beating.

Now only those monkeys were in the cage on which scientists had never sprinkled water, but still they beat up the monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask those monkeys why they are beating up the monkey trying to climb the ladder, i can say with guarantee that the answer would be "I don't know. We have seen others doing the same (so we do it too)." Does this sound familiar to you?

Do spread this experiment to others so that they too can ask themselves why we are living our lives like the way it is going.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." (Albert Einstein)


Abdul Sami said…
i actually read this ages ago ... in english... but i think the urdu speakin masses need to know this more !!!
Rabia said…
interesting read..... my first time here btw.
Thanks for sharing dude. =P
Saad Javed said…
“ Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be. ”

— Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley in Australia

Helio said…
Interesting. I wonder if this experiment actually happened. Poor monkeys though ;)
Anonymous said…
Its a definitely interesting experiment... I'd agree with the implications of it.
Anonymous said…
Excellent illustration that dumbs it down for the crowd!

Awais, check this out:

i'd like to know where you philosophical stand is in relation to the above.
SloganMurugan said…
This is an old one. But it looks nice with that urdu script :)
i share the same sentiment... whenever we talk about custom (being a sociology student, it is quite frequent), I bring up a similar argument. Half the time we do things and we have no idea why we do it.
It kinda sucks that people are just not willing to think outside the box.