November 10, 2006

Cool Like Who?

Experimenters trained a high-status female chimpanzee to drop her tokens into a bucket---rather than a container with a tube---to get a reward. All the other chimpanzees followed her and dropped their tokens in the bucket to get a reward. A low status-female eventually realized that she would get a reward even if she dropped her tokens in the container with the tube. No one followed her.

So here's the twist. Forget the experimenters,

since they have nothing to do with actual culture. This is what the cultural anthropologists found.

The low-status female used to favor the bucket that all the others dropped their tokens in--- actually she was the first one to drop her tokens there. The high-status female is not really a very adventurous type since she is uncomfortable getting too far out in front of the crowd. Rather she is skilled at picking up on emerging trends. In fact, she began by followed the low-status female to the bucket she was favoring and doing what she did. But since the high-status female is by definition Ms. Popular Culture, whatever she does is cool. She and everyone else who just fell in line put on their sexy shades and stood around feeling real cool.

The low-status female was not interested in being cool. A curious type, she got bored doing the same thing all the time. “Been there done that. This no longer seems to fit. I need to broaden my horizons,” she thought to herself. Besides, she didn’t particularly like wearing shades; they block out too much light and restrict depth of vision. So she followed the beat of her own drum and went to check out the other side.

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