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Mon 10 Sep 2007 - 12:36 am UTC
I need to know where to go to get a synopsis of or the entire Lesser Apes Experiment: when/where it was done, who did it, and the basic facts.
Mon 10 Sep 2007 - 2:38 am UTC
I have found no references to anything specifically called "Lesser Apes Experiment."
Could you be referring to the apocryphal "Monkey Experiment," which is often retold online?
Additional information from you would be most helpful.
Mon 10 Sep 2007 - 4:16 am UTC
Toby Lee Spiegel
By chance are you referring to this?
A three-year-old white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) was tested in terms of her ability to follow experimenter-given directional cues in an object-choice task. Four conditions were run: the experimenter baited one of two cups and then gave one of the following four directional cues: (a) pointing at the baited cup from a short distance (5 cm); (b) pointing at the target from a long distance (20 cm); (c) orienting body, head, and eyes toward the baited cup; and (d) orienting eyes only toward the baited cup. A young gibbon was able to use all of the experimenter-given cues to obtain hidden food rewards. Several possible reasons for the gibbon's superior performance in comparison to other primates reported in the existing literature were discussed.
Wed 12 Sep 2007 - 12:47 am UTC
This is the right experiment. I'll die if this isn't real. I NEED it to be real for a book I'm writing! Take another swing at seeing if this is real if you don't mind. But you already win with the apocryphal answer.
P.S. I heard about this in a session taught by Scott Snook at Harvard Business School. :>(
Wed 12 Sep 2007 - 1:13 am UTC
I wish I had better news. I've found no evidence that would lead me to believe that the "experiment" is based on an actual scientific study. It's a parable that is frequently used in business courses, and it has often been circulated by email, but several hours of searching has brought me no closer to its origin. Many of the retellings make claims such as "this is based on an actual experiment" and "this is a true story." However, details are never provided, and the description of the how the experiment was conducted varies in the many versions of the story.
I hope someone can prove me wrong, but this has many of the hallmarks of an urban legend.
Wed 12 Sep 2007 - 1:19 am UTC
I meant to include this in my previous post.
Bjørn Lomborg, in his 2001 book "The Skeptical Environmentalist," includes the monkey experiment as an example of something that everybody believes to be true, even though there isn't any evidence:
"Why do many Americans continue to believe the litany? Maybe the story of the five monkeys will help us understand that. Start with a cage containing five monkeys.
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 with the same result: all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage andreplace 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 previousnewcomer 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 everagain approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here. And that's how company policy begins...
Do you believe that story? Would you tell it to someone else as true? I asked my source if the experiment had been ever done, and he did not know. So far as he knew, it was just a story that makes a lot of sense. If repeated enough times, soon 'everybody' will believe it, and it will become part of the culture. Is that the way popular acceptance of the litany came about?"
Thu 13 Sep 2007 - 5:52 pm UTC
Thank you for accepting my efforts as your answer.
As I mentioned above, the experiment in which new monkeys perpetuate a taboo even though they have not personally experienced negative consequences is almost certainly fiction. Like all urban legends, it seems as if it ought to be true, and it has become a teaching tool. Indeed, it is my belief that it was created with teaching in mind, particularly business and management courses. I've also found mention of this "experiment" in connection with sports coaching and U.S. Marine Corps training. It even appears in church bulletins.
I wish I could have found a verifiable first source for you, but this thing is so widespread that I think it will be well nigh impossible to find its exact origin. If you need to refer to the monkey experiment in your book, I suggest that you cite one of the many authors who have described it. With the aid of Google Book Search, you can browse some of the various versions:
Thank you for a fascinating project. The next time I see some bananas, I'm not gonna let the other guys hold me back. ;-)
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