For the Monkey Ladder Experiment, you’ll need five monkeys, a cage, a stepladder, some string, a banana and a water hose.
To begin, place the monkeys in the cage.
Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a stepladder under it. Before long, one of the monkeys will spot the banana and start to climb the ladder. As soon as he does, spray the other four monkeys with ice-cold water.
Replace the banana.
After a while another of the monkeys will go for the banana. Again, spray the other four monkeys with cold water. Monkeys are fairly smart, so pretty soon whenever one of the monkeys tries to climb the ladder all the other monkeys will try and prevent him doing it. When this happens, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. Then put another banana at the top of the ladder.
The new monkey will spot the banana and make for the ladder. To his surprise all of the other monkeys will attack him! After a couple more attempts result in beatings, the new monkey will not make any further attempt to go for the banana.
Remove another of the original monkeys and replace it with another new one. Then replace the banana. As before, the newest monkey will make a grab for it. Like his predecessor he will be amazed to find that all the other monkeys attack him. (The previous newcomer is likely to take part in this punishment with great enthusiasm.)
One at a time, gradually replace all of the original monkeys with new ones. Each of the newcomers will go for the banana. Each one will be attacked by the other four, although none of the newer monkeys will have any idea why they are not allowed to climb the ladder, or why they are participating in the assault on the newest monkey.
When all of the original monkeys have been replaced, none of the remaining monkeys will ever have been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless no monkey ever approaches the ladder.
Why not? Because that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.
Now get back to work!