Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not Just a Hat Rack



Why do we do what we do?

Why do we believe what we believe?

Is it because of peer pressure?

Is it because that is what everyone else is doing?

As a child I was always instructed to use my head for something besides a hat rack.

I was listening to an audiobook from Dave Ramsey, "Total Money Makeover", where he brings up an experiment that was conducted with chimpanzees.

Dave explained that the experiment started with some chimpanzees being placed in a room with a ladder in the center. On top of the ladder was some enticement or treat (I envision bananas). If a chimp decided to climb the ladder the rest of the group was sprayed with water. Eventually, the group would not let any other chimp in the group climb the ladder because they all did not want to be sprayed with water.

The scientists then replaced one of the chimps with a new one, and once the new chimp tried to climb the ladder the group prevented them from doing so until this chimp learned that apparently the group did not want anyone climbing the ladder.

The scientists continue to replace the chimpanzees one at a time until eventually all of the original subjects had been replaced. Even though none of the first group that was sprayed with the water remained, the rest of the chimpanzees continued to prevent any of the new chimps from climbing the ladder.

These chimpanzees were now merely perpetuating something. Even though none of these chimps knew why, but because that is what has always been done.

Dave brings this up to explain why we so blindly think we need to acquire debt. Even though this makes sense, you can also take this a step further to explain why we do so many other things blindly and without fully researching and knowing why we do the things we do. From credit, to religion, to drugs, to how we interact with the opposite sex, or why we all had to go see Avatar. We continue to plod along doing things because that's the way it has always been done.

I heard a similar story while living in North Pole Alaska.

Someone who owned some sled dogs said they had installed sprinklers above the dog runs and had a switch installed in the house. Every time the dogs began barking the owner would flip the switch and soak the dogs to shut them up. Eventually they figured out that barking meant a drenching. When the owner would introduce a new dog into the runs, and it began barking, the other dogs would head for their kennels because they knew what was about to happen to the new guy.

While I'm sharing interesting animal tales, Dave also brought up how they capture monkeys in a country I don't recall the name of. They would place tasty sweet nuts into large jars with skinny necks. The aroma from the nuts would attract the monkeys and they would reach down into the jar to retrieve the nut. Once the monkey grabbed the nut with its fist, its hand became too big to pull out of the neck of the jar. Since the jar was too heavy, the monkey would be trapped from its greed of not wanting to let go of the nut.

What's the take on all of this? First of all, don't blindly follow people without doing your own research as to why you are doing something. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn't make it the correct path for you. Humans are full of mistakes. Some people perpetuate mistakes whether they mean to or not. They're not evil people, they're just ignorant and misguided. Which is what you will be if you follow their lead without knowing why.

Do you remember Jim Jones? People followed him so blindly that they all drank poison-laced Kool-Aid, which is where the common term that is now used to follow someone blindly is called, drinking the Kool-Aid.

Although we are animals, we have larger brains then the rest of the wild kingdom. Let's try using them a bit more often shall we?

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