Monkey Behavioural Experiment

This experiment never occurred, however, it is a wonderful tale that has relevance to how many schools operate, all schools have certain procedures and habits. There may once have been a good reason for the way they did certain, but in many cases it is no longer relevant nor does anyone actually remember the reason why. What procedures or behaviours occur at your school that you have not questioned ?

Put eight monkeys in a room. In the middle of the room is a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling. Each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder, all the other monkeys are sprayed with ice water, which makes them miserable.

Soon enough, whenever a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, all of the other monkeys, not wanting to be sprayed, set upon him and beat him up. Soon, none of the eight monkeys ever attempts to climb the ladder.

One of the original monkeys is then removed, and a new monkey is put in the room. Seeing the bananas and the ladder, he wonders why none of the other  monkeys are doing the obvious, but, undaunted, he immediately begins to climb the ladder. All the other monkeys fall upon him and beat him silly. He has no idea why.

However, he no longer attempts to climb the ladder. A second original monkey is removed and replaced. The newcomer again attempts to climb the ladder, but all the other monkeys hammer the crap out of him. This includes the previous new monkey, who, grateful that
he’s not on the receiving end this time, participates in the beating because all the other monkeys are doing it.


However, he has no idea why he’s attacking the new monkey. One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced. Eight new monkeys are now in the room. None of them have ever been sprayed by ice water.
None of them attempt to climb the ladder. All of them will enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.

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About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
This entry was posted in administration and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Monkey Behavioural Experiment

  1. April says:

    I don’t have links to the actual study/studies but I guess they can be found :

    Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.

    Mentioned in: Galef, B. G., Jr. (1976). Social Transmission of Acquired Behavior: A Discussion of Tradition and Social Learning in Vertebrates. In: Rosenblatt, J.S., Hinde, R.A., Shaw, E. and Beer, C. (eds.), Advances in the study of behavior, Vol. 6, New York: Academic Press, pp. 87-88:

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