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The Loss of Reason

A group of scientists put five monkeys in a cage. Hanging from the ceiling, in the middle of the cage, was a banana. Just under the banana was a wooden crate that the monkeys could use to climb up to the banana. The first time the monkeys were put in the cage, they all naturally went for the banana. When they did this, the scientists turned an industrial strength fire hose on them and forced them down off the crate. They repeated this procedure for a period of time, until eventually, the monkeys would sit in the cage without attempting to take the banana.

At that point, the scientists replaced one of the monkeys with a another monkey who had not participated in the experiment up until this point. The first time this group of monkeys was put in the cage, four of them sat idly by, while the fifth monkey (the newcomer) went for the banana. Again, the scientists got out the fire hose, but they did not spray only the monkey who went for the banana, they sprayed all the monkeys in the cage. They repeated this procedure for a period of time as well (each time with four of the original monkeys, and one monkey who was brand new to the cage). Eventually, the fire hose became unnecessary, because when the newcomer went for the banana, the other four monkeys would forcibly prevent it from doing so. A few trials later, the scientists once again had five monkeys who would sit idly in the cage with the banana dangling from the ceiling.

The above process was repeated several more times, until eventually, the scientists had five monkeys who would sit in the cage and not take the banana, but had absolutely no idea why.


Moral of the story: when someone tells you something has to be done a certain way because “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” challenge their logic. It’s quite possible that the real reason has long since vanished.