Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a
string and put stairs under it.

Before long, an ape will go up the stairs and start to climb towards the
banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the apes with cold
water.

After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result – all
the apes are sprayed with cold water. Turn off the cold water.

If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will
try to prevent it even though no water sprays them. Now, remove one ape
from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his
horror, all of the apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he
knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a new
one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous
newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it
to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat
him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or
why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.

After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes that
have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no
ape ever again approaches the stairs.

Why not? “Because that’s the way it’s always been around here.”

That’s how company policy begins ….


I received this story through email and liked it so much I’m posting it on my blog.

One thought on “Not sure why.

  1. Is this a result of scientific experiment or a speculation? Sounds plausible, at least to someone who’s not a specialist in animal behaviors. But that does not make it true…

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