The Monkey, Banana, and Ladder Experiment: Obeying Absurd Rules

It’s a story many of us have heard in conversations about the acceptance of the rules by the masses.

A seemingly simple experience, with a small group of monkeys that are in a cage and some bananas that they could try to get.

The monkey experiment, the scale and the bananas

As in almost all research that studies animal behavior, the experiment begins with a cage. Inside are placed 5 healthy monkeys and, in the center of the cabin, a ladder with bananas at the top.

Predictably, the monkeys soon begin to climb the ladder to reach for food. However, his plan is interrupted each time by a nasty surprise: every time a monkey climbs the steps, the researchers spray the rest of the primates with cold water.

This makes every attempt to access bananas turn into a major rebuke from the monkeys to the individual who tries it: screams, hits, bites … everything is worth it so that no one else does. have a similar event. These practices have been quite effective: after a while, no monkey has tried to catch the bananas, despite the temptation to eat them. But the interesting example comes later.

Introduce some changes

At this point, the researchers take one monkey out of the cage and put another in its place. This “newcomer” sees the bananas on the stairs and, as he could not follow what happens to those who try to do something if, he receives the blows and cries of others: the fear of water ice cream is a gift. This monkey does not understand the reason for this punishment, as he did not see how the cold water falls, but after a few attempts he simply concludes that trying to reach the bananas is not a good idea.

Once that’s done, the researchers replace another of the monkeys with a new one. This newcomer does the same as the first to see the bananas and the ladder, and the answer from the rest is the same: punishment. however, on this occasion the first novice monkey also participates in the reprimand.

From that point on, the researchers replaced all the monkeys until none of the 5 monkeys left in the cage came to witness the fall of the icy water. When someone tries to climb the ranks, these animals continue to react with the same violence as the five monkeys at the start.

The fable of obedience to the rules

This story is about the conduct of an experiment, but although its setting has to do with what goes on in some psychology and zoology labs, this research does not exist as such: it was not. conducted and, for so long there is no conclusion of scientific value that can be drawn from it.

However, that doesn’t mean the story has no value as a fable. And is the story of the monkeys, bananas and the ladder an example of blind obedience to the rules by a group.

The first five monkeys had objective grounds for not wanting anyone to climb the ladder: every time they did, they were punished. however, the other monkeys obeyed the rules for no reason to do so. And not only did they obey them, but they perpetuated them through their behavior. The norm of the ban on climbing the ladder, despite its absurdity, had become a part of their life, to the point where they invested time and effort to make it continue to exist. Can it be the same with the rules we have chosen to reproduce humans by our actions?

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