25.01.2006 07:14 - Making a Monkey Out Of You
This story has been going round for a while, but it bears repeating.
An experiment was conducted on a group of chimps by a behavioral scientist. In the experiment, the chimps were kept in a cage, with a steel water bowl. The chimps were allowed time to acclimatise to their home, and then the scientists put an electric current through the water bowl - not a dangerous one, just enough to give any unsuspecting chimp who attempted to drink from the bowl a nasty zap, like an electric fence. The chimps soon learned that drinking from that bowl had unfortunate consequences.
The scientists then removed one of the chimps and added a new chimp, who didn't know about the bowl. When the new arrival attempted to drink from the bowl, the other chimps would prevent him from doing so. The scientists then removed another chimp, adding another chimp that didn't know about the bowl either. When this chimp went to take a drink, the chimps again prevented him from doing so - including the previous new arrival, even though this chimp had never directly taken a drink - and been shocked - by the bowl.
The scientists continued doing this, until all the original chimps had been removed. All the chimps in the cage had learned from the others that you weren't supposed to drink from the bowl.
Then the scientists removed the electric shock mechanism from the bowl, and added another new chimp to the cage.
Surprise surprise, the chimps prevented the newcomer from drinking from the bowl, even though the bowl was no longer electrified, and they could drink in safety. None of the chimps knew that the bowl was now safe.
The scientists continued their experiment, replacing the chimps, and in all that time, the chimps prevented newcomers from drinking from the bowl. Not one chimp ever found out the bowl was now safe.
The moral of this story? "We've always done it that way" is not a valid reason.