After reading the blurb, I had to add bananas to our breakfast menu. We had four, and I passed one to each person at our table, explained the story, and made the inaugural pinch and peel.
It was fun. It was easy. And somehow a lot less messy than I thought it would be. But I wondered how many bananas it would take until I automatically peeled them that way.
Apparently a lot - if our breakfast dialogue was any indication:
J: Here you go C, try peeling it from this end like Mommy.
Caroline: Noooo....I do it this way!! (opens banana from the stem, smashes half of it in the process, as usual).
J: What do you think, a technique to try again?
Will: It‘s surprisingly hard to adjust to. I mean, it inverts the natural order.
J: You mean the learned order?
Will: I mean how I was taught to do it as a kid. But hey, if it works for the monkeys it’s all right by me.
Naturally, I had to write this scintillating experiment (and dialogue) down for the world to see. And when I did I remembered a story from the New York Times that has been on my mind since December: Children learn from Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don‘t."
The story describes a study that demonstrated children were more tied to learning through mimicry than monkeys. Apparently monkeys and children both will watch someone solve a problem - say opening a box, or peeling a banana - and use the same gestures (even extraneous one) to get to the goodie. But if a monkey then sees a faster solution, he’ll skip the extra steps and go straight to the banana. Children in the same situation stick with the original extra gestures.
The scientists in the study speculated that by learning through imitation, humans don’t have to understand a solution in order to achieve it. My own speculation is that yes, it is useful to learn without thinking (remember spelling class?). But copied gestures are also a great way for a complex society to survive without being overwhelmed by the detail of constant difference. Sure, we don't speak the same language, but by gum, we all peel our bananas the same way.
Unless, of course, you're a Boing Boing reader. What do you say - want to change the world, one peel at a time?
Dining out for Life
17 hours ago