"Monkey See, Monkey Do"
by Ronald C. Reece, Ph.D.

I remember as a boy often hearing “monkey see, money do” spoken by my parents.  This simple phrase was used to explain that my younger brothers would copy whatever I was doing and of course it was usually something undesirable.   What that simple phrase is reminding us of, is one of the primary ways we learn - modeling.  Watching someone ride a bike, shoot a basketball, comb their hair, put on makeup, smoke a cigarette, etc., etc. we learn so much through imitation. Much of that type of learning happens unconsciously.   Modeling was something we spent many, many hours studying in graduate school as part of courses on learning theory and I know why.  Modeling is powerful.

On a recent trip with friends and family, I was reminded of the power of modeling because we had fourteen-month-old Dillon with us.  Of course everything is new to Dillon and his curiosity is boundless.  It was great to watch.  Dillon would copy sounds, facial expressions, gestures, on and on.  When Dillon would say “wow” all the adults would respond, wow! We were even imitating him.   When I used a cardboard tube as a trumpet, Dillon immediately followed suit.  He is learning at the speed of light.   As I watched, I thought of all the opportunities, good and bad, that we have to model for and learn from those around us.  After all isn’t imitation “the greatest form of flattery”.   Even as adults we still learn through modeling.  Coaches, mentors, teachers all model new things or things we learned long ago but may have forgotten.  Just last week I took a magic class and with each trick I was modeling the movements and words of the magician instructor.  It was great fun. 

The most effective models are viewed by the observer to be of some importance or have a position of status that makes them desirable.

Think of who might be watching and modeling or imitating you.  What are they learning? Visualize someone you have immulated and remind yourself of the qualities and skills that person has unknowingly past along to you.   Dillon reminded me of this power we have and the influence of “monkey see, monkey do” in our world.  Let’s use it wisely at work as well as in our personal lives.  

© Reece & Associates, P.A.