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The Monkey Experiment

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There’s a famous experiment where they keep a bunch of monkeys in a room for an indefinite amount of time. There’s a big white staircase leading up out of the room. Every time a monkey climbs to the top of the staircase, he gets blasted back down the stairs with a hose. When this happens, every monkey in the room also gets blasted with water. This makes them very angry.

Soon, the monkeys have figured it out: beat the shit out of any monkey that starts to climb the stairs. That’s the new rule.

At some point, they remove a monkey and send in a new one. He learns the rule quickly: don’t climb the stairs. And if we’re beating somebody up, join in. One by one, they replace each monkey with a new one who has to learn the rule.

At some point they can turn off the hose. The monkeys will reliably prevent escape. Policing the stairs has become a cultural norm. Eventually, they have this population of monkeys who are trained to beat up any monkey that tries to escape, but don’t even understand why.

The experiment is run by interns who are paid in course credit. Occasionally, an intern finishes the semester and leaves. New interns join the team and everybody explains how to feed the monkeys and how to record the data. But at this point, none of the interns are from the original group, none of them have met the scientists leading this project. Most of the interns don’t fully understand the point of the experiment.

The scientist who began the experiment left long ago. Other researchers were assigned to the project by an administrator in order to keep this valuable experiment running. None of the remaining scientists are actually authors of the paper, or even understand what it’s about.

The administrator supervising the project isn’t terribly involved with it. He just prolongs the experiment because it’s his department’s main source of funding. But he didn’t begin this project, he just inherited it from his predecessor, who is on a leave of absence and hasn’t been seen in some time.

The company funding the experiment has a sum of money they spend annually on scientific research, mainly for tax reasons. But the person who reads and approves grants left last year. The last time anybody saw the man, he handed a huge folder to some new kid and said “make sure these stay funded.” Then he disappeared up a long staircase leading into the sky.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1988_George_Lucas_testimony_before_United_States_Senate

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The second monkey was substituted and the same happened. The main monkey took an interest in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was rehashed. The fourth monkey was changed, bringing about the same, before the fifth was at last supplanted also.

What was left was a gathering of five monkeys that – while never having gotten a cool shower – kept on thrashing any monkey who endeavored to climb the stepping stool.

web: http://www.writeversity.com/

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Except that it seems in the actual related experiment on which the parable is likely based, the monkeys didn’t behave as described in the “teaching” story.

Also, being a professor in a university myself, I can say with quite certainty that there is NO WAY funding would continue in such a situation. Research money is rare and precious, highly competitive, and must be re-justified regularly. I had a three-year NSF grant and had to fight to keep it each year. Worse, the story portrays internal university funding… that’s a joke because internal grant money is generally extremely small, on the order of 1K or 2K, not nearly enough to keep a project like this going for years.

What is the point of a “teaching” story that has no basis in reality?

"Close the blast doors!"
Puggo’s website | Rescuing Star Wars

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Puggo - Jar Jar’s Yoda said:

Urban legend?
http://www.throwcase.com/2014/12/21/that-five-monkeys-and-a-banana-story-is-rubbish/

That criticism of the original story doth protest too much, methinks, particularly with regards to how the original experiment has ‘nothing at all’ the same as the modern tale. In fact, the male monkeys, when placed with a naive newcomer, would actually use physical force to deter the newcomers from the unique object. Female monkeys would sit back and observe newcomers manipulating the object and allow themselves to unlearn their previous behavior.

So there is a seed of truth to the idea that a learned behavior can be transferred to others in this way. In fact, there is an example from my time in college that I find particularly enlightening of herd mentality: If just one student thinks that a classroom door is locked, they will wait outside of it and in many cases other students will gather with them in the shared assumption that the door is locked. This was particularly humorous when some students had already entered the classroom before the student thinking the door was locked, and particularly when class was about to begin and the teacher had to ask everyone what they were doing standing outside like a bunch of sheep.

JEDIT: I am also baffled by the debunker’s vitriol towards TED talks.

This post has been edited.

DuracellEnergizer: "^He’s embraced the absurd. Don’t expect to gain any conventional understanding from his posts."
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We’ve all observed the same. But the learned behavior is quickly unlearned as soon as someone tests it - which apparently was observed in the monkeys. So I’m still struggling to understand what is the point.

I too was surprised by the anti-TED verbiage.

Perhaps I’ve become too easily irked by made-up untrue stuff masquerading as something insightful, given the amount of it that has been dumped on us over the past year.

"Close the blast doors!"
Puggo’s website | Rescuing Star Wars

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Who’s the more sheepish, the sheep, or the sheep who follow the sheep calling them sheep?

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I find it hard to believe that such an experiment would be conducted and those leaving the experiment would not explain the whole to those taking over. That seems unscientific.

Rest In Peace Dad, I love you. I know I will see you again someday.


From Job 1:21 the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.

It has been a year. I miss you so much Dad. I love you.

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*sigh*

Rest In Peace Dad, I love you. I know I will see you again someday.


From Job 1:21 the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.

It has been a year. I miss you so much Dad. I love you.

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Don’t feel bad - it went over my head too. Yeah, it’s clever-sounding and all, but honestly I still don’t know what its “point” is when its basis is mostly untrue and its content is mostly fabricated. It’s like so many other memes out there that seem cool at first, then unravel the closer you look at them.

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"Close the blast doors!"
Puggo’s website | Rescuing Star Wars

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I guess that by not falling in line I just disproved the story.

Oh, another of the things I find questionable about the story is the notion that somehow the monkeys are stupid sheep for keeping each other from climbing the stairs. Hey, if I see someone walk into a room and get his head lopped off, I sure am going to avoid walking in the room myself - and keep my friends from going in there. That’s just called “learning”. If later, someone is observed going in the room and NOT getting their head lopped off, the same learning will lead to me considering that maybe the danger has passed.

About the only significant example I can think of people continuing some antiquated behavior ad-infinitum despite longterm and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is religion. But that’s a debate for another day. 😃

"Close the blast doors!"
Puggo’s website | Rescuing Star Wars

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TV’s Frink said:

Finnius said:

Vote.
Pay your taxes.
Obey authority.
Take it and like it.

I appreciate that the fire department will come to my house if my house is on fire, and that bridges don’t fall down when I drive on them.

I’m with Frink. I like taxes, even though I don’t agree with the way that they’re being allocated.

time damaging my ties

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