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The Five Monkey Principle

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NOTE: The above link no longer exists, but a Google search will find other examples of the story.

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up.

After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation.

The scientists then decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings.

The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up on all those who attempted to climb the ladder, their most likely answer would be “I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here.”

It's not true

From research I have done the above story is just that a story is not true. It's an analogy. But it's a good way to represent what actually does happen in life

Significance of the principal

People are creatures of habit. They do things because they have always done them. More emphasis is put on emotion rather than logic. Hence tradition and peer group pressure are reasons why things are done rather than logic.

Thats also the reason that people are very unlikely to change the way they do things regardless of how illogical or inefficient what they're doing is.

As in the five monkey principle above, often if you ask people why they do things, they say, because they have always done it that way or they were taught to do it that way.

As Professor Julius Sumner Miller would say “Why is it so”.


There would be millions of examples of the 5 monkey principle. Here are just a few.

English spelling

We talk completely differently to the way we did hundreds of years ago yet we spell words based on the way we spoke in the past.

It's been put, that silent and double letters were created by the Dutch typesetters because they were being paid for each character that they set. By inventing double and silent letters they got paid more.

An apostrophe in some words is used when two words are used together in the One sound. The apostrophe is there for redundant, but is still used.

See also Spelng

Qwerty keyboard

The layout of a computer keyboard is the way it is because it was based on a typewriter keyboard which was set out the way it was so that the mechanical levers, as they were going from their resting position, to hit the paper, would not Jam against each other. Hardly any such typewriters are now ever used but the keyboard layout, on practly every computer in the world, remains

Paper based records

Even though the economy, distributability, readability and archive ability of computer records is far superior to that of paper records many people still insist on having paper based records.

Political systems

Regardless of whether they are left, right, communist or capitalist systems, all have resulted in massive Wars where hundreds of millions of people have died have lived in poverty and have been taken advantage of by relatively few. Yet these political systems still exist and a very unlikely to ever change.


Money in terms of price has traditionally been use to determine how scarce resources are to be utilised, yet although we live on a finite planet we waste precious resources, because some people can afford to do so. Yet we still use money.

5_monkey_principle.txt · Last modified: 2022/06/11 13:21 by geoff