It is very strange how people behave to fulfill their sense of belongingness, it makes us followers without being conscious that we follow without any reason other than to feel that we belong within the masses. Let me emphasize my point by sharing with you an amazing experiment about behavioral patterns that was conducted many years ago.
Ten monkeys were locked in a room where in the middle of the ceiling some bananas were hung and underneath there was a ladder. On one side of the room, there was a fire-extinguishing system designed to automatically release high pressured water from its nozzle whenever any monkey stepped on the ladder.
The aim of the experiment was to examine the behavioral reaction of the monkeys towards the ladder, the bananas and the water hose.
Of course, the first two attempts left the 10 monkeys soaking wet.
After several attempts, the monkeys understood that whoever climbs the ladder will hurt the others. So, they kept their distance and stayed peacefully in the room playing with each other.
After a while, the scientists took two monkeys out of the room and replaced them with two new monkeys. As soon as the two newcomers approached the ladder the other eight monkeys started to beat them up to avoid another flood in the room. It didn’t take more than two attempts from the new monkeys for them to realize that the ladder was a forbidden object.
The scientists replaced another two monkeys with two new monkeys as they did before. The result was amazing. Whenever the two new monkeys tried to climb the ladder, they got beaten up by the other eight monkeys including the first two newcomers.
The scientists kept taking two monkeys out of the room and replacing them with two new monkeys until the room was filled with 10 completely different monkeys.
The last two additions tried to climb the ladder and as expected the other eight new monkeys started to beat them up. At this point, all the 10 new monkeys understood that whoever tries to climb the ladder will get badly beaten though none of them knew the real reason behind this hostile behavior. All they knew was that that is the way things are. However, none of them had experienced the water flush.
The experiment shows that people also adopt certain behavioral patterns that were somehow communicated to them without any explanation.
If we take for instance the way people in Cairo spend their weekends. We find that there is a summer rush to the North Coast, which is really unexplainable. Weekends are supposed to be to relax, to have fun and to unwind so when the week starts over, we start on a fresh and energetic note.
For most people, the summer weekend in Cairo kicks off with a three hour drive on Thursday evening and ends with the drive back on Saturday. Throughout the weekend, people experience the same kind of issues they complain about when they are in Cairo. Traffic is horrible. Everywhere they go whether to a restaurant, coffee shop or a nightlife hangout, it is always over crowded. Nevertheless, during the weekend they never complain. On the contrary, they brag about it. The result of this is that at the beginning of the week, they are far from being energetic.
When you ask someone why they keep doing this trip every weekend for the duration of two to three months, they answer “that’s what the summer is all about”. No one really knows the real reason behind their behavior.
It never occurred to people to spend their weekends in a fruitful way improving on their own personal wellbeing.
I believe there are several key factors that explain this summer frenzy. Firstly, most people like to duplicate whatever their friends or peers do without questioning it. Secondly, being a follower reinforces their sense of belongingness which is vital for the human race in general. And thirdly, the subject people are most interested in talking about is themselves. People like to come back from the weekend and talk about who they have met and what they did.
I would like to clarify that I am not criticizing this behavior at all. What has happened lately is that I have started to notice that my weekends have become much more relaxing and fun in Cairo. The streets are quiet, everywhere I go I receive an excellent service and I wake up every Friday morning to the sound of birds singing. To my surprise, I didn’t know that we still have birds in Cairo!
Karim El-Shakankiry is an internationally renowned life coach, motivator and public speaker. He is the founder of “yesUcan” organization for personal and corporate coaching based in Montreal, Canada. He is the first to introduce life coaching in the Middle East and is the president of the Arab Coaching Federation.