Fleas in a jar

Hi everyone

‘Fleas in a jar’ – a well-known experiment carried out by scientists with clearly too much time on their hands! Simply put, it involved collecting some poor fleas in a glass jar and letting them jump about unhindered as all healthy fleas enjoy doing.

After a period of time, the scientists put a lid on the jar (cue call to the SPCF…). Naturally the fleas carried on jumping up and down to the same heights but were now bumping their little heads on the lid. The fleas then modified their jumping antics so as not to concuss themselves unduly and jumped to a much lower height way below the lid level!

The scientists them removed the lid to see if the fleas, now unfettered by barriers would jump out of the jar. Interestingly, this did not happen….the fleas kept jumping to the same height as if the lid was still on, even though they could have jumped right out of the jar.

What does this simple experiment show us?

Well, if we take some scientific liberties and extrapolate the findings to the behaviour of people it helps us make a profound point. Most people put limits on themselves in terms of what they can achieve in life in order not to bump their heads on their own lids. Why is this so?

Well, along the way from childhood to adulthood, we receive messages some positive, many negative telling us what we can and cannot do. These messages come in many forms from parents, teachers, peers and the media, effectively forming an imaginary lid on what we believe we can achieve.

Even though there are no barriers to what we can achieve other than physical ones (If I’m very short, I’m probably not going to be a basketball player!) we behave as if these barriers are there and don’t try and ‘jump’ higher than our lids allow. The impact of this can limit what we believe we are capable of even though the limits are not real. This is simply behavioural conditioning and therefore it can be modified. More about this later!

Take care and be kind to each other


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