By Mark Bowser
The Japanese monkey known as Macaca fuscata had been studied for decades. Scientist had been observing them in their natural habitat.
In 1952, scientists decided to change the game a little. On the island of Koshima, the scientists began dropping sweet potatoes into the sand. They were curious to see what the monkeys would do with them. The monkeys loved the taste of the sweet potatoes but they were not too fond of the dirty sand all over their food.
One day, an eighteen month old female monkey the scientists had named “Imo” decided that she was going to wash her sweet potatoes in a nearby stream before she ate them. The scientists watched intently as Imo carried her sweet potatoes and began scrubbing the sand off of them. She loved the taste of the now clean sweet potatoes.
Imo then went on to teach her mother as well as the other young monkeys around her own age on how to clean their sweet potatoes too. Pretty soon, there was a whole group of the monkeys that were cleaning their sweet potatoes in the nearby stream before they ate them. This went on from 1952 to1958.
Then, a very curious thing happened. As more and more monkeys began washing their sweet potatoes, it appeared that the monkeys hit a tipping point in their community. All of a sudden, almost all of the monkeys on the island of Koshima were washing their sweet potatoes.
Then an even more amazing thing happened when all of a sudden monkeys on other nearby islands began washing their sweet potatoes too. How did that happen? It wasn’t as though any monkeys from Koshima swam to the other islands and began presenting seminars on how to clean sweet potatoes. It just happened! But how?
We may never know how or why monkeys on the other islands began practicing the same cleanliness. But, we know that communities do hit tipping points. And we do know that some products will become the next fashion trend and some videos go viral.
It appears that thoughts have energy kind of like radio waves. Have you ever been thinking of something and a friend calls you on the phone and starts talking about the exact same thing? It is kind of freaky, isn’t it? But, it happens.
If one monkey named Imo can change an entire monkey community … then what can we do if we put our minds to it to change our community? Just some food for thought.
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