Consider Being Different: A Lesson From The 5 Ape Study

Sep 26, 2023

Have you heard about the 5 Ape Study?

Back in the 1960s, there was a study called the "5 Ape Study" that showed us something really important about our behavior, and the importance of not blindly following what we see everyone else is doing.

 Picture this: in the study there were five apes in a big cage. A banana hung on a string above metal stairs that led up to the banana. One by one, as each ape would approach the stairs to begin the climb towards the banana, the researchers would spray all the apes with cold water.

As each ape would make an attempt at the banana, the same result would occur - all the apes were sprayed with cold water.

Eventually, even with no cold water being sprayed, if an ape tried to climb the stairs the other apes would attack and keep it from climbing, even though no water sprayed them. 

 The researchers then began to replace one ape at a time with one that had never been sprayed. As the newly added ape approached the stairs, it would be assaulted by the other four.

Interestingly, as the second replacement ape began to approach the stairs, the first replacement ape, who had never seen any cold water sprayed, joined the three original apes in prohibiting this second replacement ape from climbing the stairs to reach the banana.

This continued with the same result for the 3rd and the 4th replacements.

After all five of the original apes were eventually replaced, even though none of them had ever experienced any cold water being sprayed and had no idea why they had participated in the beating of the other apes that attempted the climb towards the banana, never did one of these new five dare to approach the stairs.

Why not?

“Because that is the way it’s always been around here.”

These replacement apes had no idea why they had participated in the previous assaults.

They also did not know why they should not climb the stairs to enjoy the banana themselves, but they never tried.

What's the lesson here? Well, it's pretty simple. Sometimes, we just do what everyone else is doing without even thinking about why.

Or…we are afraid to do what others are not doing, without really knowing why they aren’t doing it.

We pick up beliefs and habits from our family and friends without questioning if they make sense or not. Just like those apes, we can easily follow the crowd and fear doing things differently.

 The "5 Ape Study" shows us that it's essential to break free from this kind of thinking, and its application to various facets of our lives here runs wide and deep..

We need to ask questions, challenge the things that don't make sense, and not be afraid to try something new.

 In our lives, we often come across fears and beliefs that hold us back for no good reason. This study reminds us that we should be open to change and not let irrational fears or old ideas stop us from exploring new opportunities to learn, grow, accomplish and be more useful to the world around us.

In the end, the lesson is clear: don't just follow the herd blindly. Take a moment to think for yourself, challenge the status quo, and be open to new possibilities that our sometime countercultural. We cannot let fear of being different from the masses hold us back from seizing the life we were created for.

As the late Jim Rohn said, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do."

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