The Monkey Experiment: The Habit Virus

Dunno why my energy level has taken a steep dive into a never-ending abyss…I try to avoid the ‘term’ hate’ but honestly there’s no better word I can use here, but this year I simply HATE winter. I miss that scotching big yellow ball in Kuwait’s skies. I haven’t been bathed by its rays in over 2 months!!! I so want Kuwait’s sun back.

Anyhoo, until my source of energy comes out of hiding from behind these cold clouds, I will continue to plagiarize and only copy and paste stuff off the net for my posts…here’s a story that says a lot about _____________________ (fill in the blank).

The Habit Virus

Source: ‘The NLP Pocketbook’ by Gillian Burn

PS. Click on the picture if you are having problems reading the small, blurry, eye straining font.

UPDATE: I found a text version of the Monkey Story:

In a research study, five monkeys were placed in a cage with a ladder leading to a bunch of ripe bananas. One monkey headed towards the bananas, but hidden at the top of the ladder was a water spray which showered water over the monkey. So it abandoned the attempt. Another monkey tried; it too was sprayed with water. Each monkey in turn tried, but each was doused and eventually gave up. The researchers turned off the water spray and removed one monkey from the cage, replacing it with a new one. The new monkey saw the bananas and immediately tried to climb the ladder. However, to its horror, the other monkeys leapt up and stopped it.

Over time the researchers removed and replaced all the original monkeys. Every time a newcomer approached the ladder the other monkeys stopped it from climbing up. None of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed, but still no monkey approached the ladder to reach the bananas. As far as they knew that was the way it had always been done, and so the habit was formed.

UPDATE 2: Another post with a video of the monkey experiment:

13 thoughts on “The Monkey Experiment: The Habit Virus

  1. Cool! Where about in the world are you now? I bet you miss that sun, I miss the sun too. Too tired of Vancouver’s rain and fog, and we had snow this year!!! LOL!

  2. I keep hearing this story over and over. It’s a great story. I’ve even told this story myself. But I cannot find the reference to the actual study or the published work. It seems this “study” is nothing more than an urban legend – or fable. Which makes it far less meaningful.

  3. I agree, I too haven’t come across any published study supporting this story..BUT that doesn’t lessen the message, does it?

    I get most of my morals from fables and I KNOW for sure they are made up…

    ooohhh and i don’t trust the validity and reality of published scientific experiments too much anyway–they are mostly manipulated as well 😉

    The truth behind this monkey story depends on your reality 🙂

  4. The experiment have never been taken place. It is just a metaphor. It implies that people who creates corporate policy is a monkey, people who follows corporate policy is also a monkey. If a strong or clever monkey is the fifth one, he will succeed to get the banana and changes the way things’re done.

  5. totally agree. Thanks for your input. Though I think it not only refers to corporate culture; it can equally apply to our social culture as well, agree?

  6. Actually I remember seeing this on tv. The monkeys were vicious everytime a new monkey would approach the ladder. I’ve been trying to find the video on youtube today, but I’ve been unsuccessful.

  7. I don’t disagree that a fairy tale can have a strong learning message. My point is that this story would far more powerful if it actually happened. That’s why it begins with “In a research study…”.

  8. Pingback: Tradition (part 2 in a short series of thoughts about god) | joe blogs

  9. “Stephenson (1967) trained adult male and female rhesus monkeys to avoid manipulating an object and then placed individual naïve animals in a cage with a trained individual of the same age and sex and the object in question. In one case, a trained male actually pulled his naïve partner away from the previously punished manipulandum during their period of interaction, whereas the other two trained males exhibited what were described as “threat facial expressions while in a fear posture” when a naïve animal approached the manipulandum. When placed alone in the cage with the novel object, naïve males that had been paired with trained males showed greatly reduced manipulation of the training object in comparison with controls. Unfortunately, training and testing were not carried out using a discrimination procedure so the nature of the transmitted information cannot be determined, but the data are of considerable interest.”

    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:

    Read more:

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