Monkey see, monkey do: Unleashing the power of collective transformation

Mar 05, 2024

How many people do you think it takes to transform the world? Just one. The hundredth one.

About 40 years ago, a biologist called Lyall Watson mentioned an unusual behavioural effect observed among Macaque monkeys he termed “The Hundredth Monkey Effect”. A group of monkeys were under observation on a small Japanese island. The scientists observing them gave the monkeys sweet potatoes to eat. There was one small problem – the sweet potatoes were covered in sand. The taste and texture of the sand was not pleasant for the monkeys to eat but they enjoyed the flavour of the sweet potatoes.

One day, a young monkey did something different. She discovered that by washing her potato in a stream to remove the sand, the sweet potato would taste even better. This one action solved the sand problem and improved the whole sweet potato experience. She showed this new concept to her friends and family. Over the next few years, this behaviour was learned and imitated throughout the tribe.

Eventually, one hundred monkeys were observed displaying this behaviour. It was at this point that something incredible happened. Other groups of monkeys on completely separate islands began to display the very same behaviour, despite having no apparent means of communication with the group of monkeys on the first small island!

Up to this point, the other groups of monkeys on the other islands displayed no tendencies or awareness of this new type of behaviour. It was as if when the number of monkeys displaying a certain type of behaviour reached a critical mass, it somehow set off a chain reaction across the ether for other monkeys to pick up on and adopt.

The implications of this are significant. It suggests that there is a sort of invisible network, a web, of consciousness that stretches across the world. When change occurs in one particular part of that network, a different vibration is felt and picked up on by the rest of the group. For example, you can imagine the tiny footstep of a spider reverberating throughout the whole web, causing the rest of the web to vibrate in response. The Butterfly Effect in action, if you like.

Now, if we expand this to incorporate the idea that language shapes our world, and that the thoughts we think and the words we use have a direct influence on our perception and our reality, then it’s not too much of a leap to realise that when enough people start focusing on the power of their thoughts and words that world-wide transformation occurs. Which makes it even more imperative for us to be mindful of the words we use.

So, think of that little monkey for a moment. By washing her sweet potato in the stream, by making that one small change, the effects of her action rippled out throughout the world.

The words you use ripple out throughout the world. So choose them carefully. If they are covered in sand, clean them. We are all part of a collective consciousness and all have the power to shape the world around us. You may well be the one-hundredth monkey.