Monkeys and Bananas: The Mob Mentality:
It happens more often than we would like (or care) to speak about. Gangs on the attack. Setting fires, looting, pulling people from their cars, randomly attacking persons trying to escape the foray. Groups at school waiting to pick on that one student, in the hall, at lunch, after school.
As we sit and watch the horror from the safety of our living rooms (happy to not be a part of the goings-on), silently judging, listening to the “experts” or the news commentator (whom these days seem to think they are experts in all actions of humans).. We attend the school assembly, sitting through another round of talks about how hard it is to be a teenager, and how we should all get along, learn respect, understanding, appreciate the differences in us all.
But do we ever stop to really wonder what is the reasoning behind such actions?
Some may be based in suppression, marginalization, poverty, fear, but what of the others? The spreading of the initial incident that may bloom into things that have no connection at all? The attacking of those whom may even be a part of the main reason one is exhibiting such behaviour in the first place? The “after the hockey/football (etc) game” rampages? The seemingly unexplainable incidents in schools where ”jump-ins” spread like wildfire, with seemingly no point at all?
If you have ever wondered about the psyche of the “mob mentality”? Consider this case study from “Progress in Primatology” :
Start with a cage containing five (of our closest animal relatives) monkeys. Your belief system does not see them as related to us? Okay, then probably you will stop reading right here, as this may not have any bases of logic to you.
Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the OTHER monkeys with cold water.
After a while, another monkey makes an attempt to get the banana… repeat the same action: Spray THAT monkey AND all the other monkeys with cold water.
Pretty soon, if you repeat the action, whenever another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. (they begin to understand…. climbing the stairs equals scary cold water)
Now, put away the cold water.
Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.
To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys 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 monkeys 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! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.
Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.
…..Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done round here, and that is just the way that it is.
Now maybe you think we are better, different, not at all like the “savages” of the jungles…
Or maybe, just maybe there is a truth in these (slightly less than perfectly executed) “scientific” findings
… and you are just too scared to want to see it.