Friday, January 11, 2008

Monkey see Monkey do!!!

Monkey see, monkey do!!

According to Wikipedia, Monkey see, monkey do is a traditional cliché that popped up in American culture in the early 1920s. The American version of this saying often refers to a child's learning process. The child observes another's behavior and then imitates it. The European interpretation of this cliché is slightly different. In the UK monkey see, monkey do refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works.
Whatever the definition, the underlying fact is that behavior breeds behavior. This is often referred to in social psychology studies as Modeling Theory. The basis of this theory is that by observing a model's behavior and imitating it, there will be a desired learned effect. Various tests have been done and documented to prove the theory. The tests are not only limited to children, even adults tend to imitated behavior and that is what feeds into group behavior.
If it is true, could we not use this to our advantage?
Last night I went for a Charity Dinner, in aid of a hospital in Vietnam. It was a black tie event and the intention was to raise a few Hundred thousand dollars. There was silent auction and stage auction. It all started on a quite note and slowly and surely it built up into a frenzy with people bidding higher and higher amounts to get their coveted object/service.
I was sitting and watching, how people were getting more and more boisterous with each bid . It was all for a great cause, so it was a wonderful gesture, but was the great cause the underlying motivator in this case? I don’t think so! The auction managed to raise over a million dollars. I think in the frenzy to outdo each other, people forgot the underlying cause. But hey….who is complaining??
My point being, that people in groups tend to ape each other without really thinking in detail about the consequences. Sometimes the consequences can be great, like what happened last night and sometimes they can be disastrous, like what happens during riots and other frenzied fanatical situations.
Why not try and use the “monkey see monkey do approach” to spread good will and good behavior. This brings to my mind the movie , “ Pay It Forward”, where the little boy starts this whole niceness movement. You do something nice for three people and those three will do something nice for three other people and each of those three will do something nice for three people each. This way, before we know it the niceness will spread all around.
A psychologist Alice Isen tried to test this theory. She went around Philadelphia leaving dimes in pay phones. The people who used those phones and found dimes were more likely to help a person who dropped a stack of papers( carefully coincided with the callers exit), compared with people who used phones that had empty coin return slots. She has done various other experiments like distributing cookies , bags of candy, stationary etc to show how random acts of kindness have motivated people to do more acts of kindness.
You can conduct your own experiments and find out how your behavior affects the others. Start shouting at your employee, child, spouse , friend or neighbor and see its snowball effect . You will make some people rather unhappy and angry. Or do something special and unexpected for your employee, child, spouse, friend or neighbor and see the reaction. You will definitely make them happy and they in turn will make someone else happy.
It has also been proven that people who do volunteer work are happier and healthier than those who don’t. The Santa Clause affect has major consequences on our health and well being.
So if you really want to feel good, go and make someone feel good, and they just might do the same.

After all Monkey see Monkey Do!!


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