ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Despite apparently following the logic of the story every step of the way, Ross still can't see that Mom doesn't know what he knows. This belief that thoughts in you head are somehow public knowledge - that what you think, everyone thinks - is almost the definition of childish innocence. Watch this wonderful example with psychologist Joan Peskin and 3- year old Jacob.
JOAN PESKIN You're going to choose one of the stickers and he's going to choose one of the stickers. But he always chooses first. And he always chooses one that you really want. He doesn't care if you're sad. Let's put monkey into another room so that he doesn't know which sticker you really want. You tell me, which sticker do you not want? Okay. Now I'm going to bring back Mean Monkey, and he's going to choose first. Remember, he always wants the sticker you really want. He doesn't care if you're sad. So think of what you can do or say so that he doesn't get the one that you really want. Here comes Mean Monkey. "Hmm, which sticker am I going to choose? Jacob, which sticker do your really want? "Oh, well I'm going to take that one! So you get to take this one."
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Joan repeats the experiment several times with each child, giving them ample opportunity to deceive the monkey as to what they really want.
JOAN PESKIN Tell me, which sticker do you really like? That one. And which sticker do you not want. That one. Okay. "Umm, Jacob, which sticker are you going to take? "Well, I'm going to take..."
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Bravely accepting, 3-year old Jacob never figures out that the monkey can be fooled. But what of Patrick, 18 months older - and already with a knowing gleam in his eyes?
JOAN PESKIN Let's put monkey in another room so that he doesn't know which sticker you really want. Okay. Which one do you really like, point to the one your really like. That one. And which sticker do you really not want? Which is a yucky sticker? That one. Okay. We'll leave those stickers there, and I'm going to bring in Mean Monkey. "Hmm, let me see which one I want. Patrick, which one do your really like? "Oh, well, I'm going to take that one, and you get to have that one."
PATRICK I had my fingers crossed!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Patrick has also crossed a threshold into the adult world. He's now old enough to know that he can think things that others don't. That his thoughts are his alone.
JOAN PESKIN From about four and a half to five they suddenly and rapidly get that knowledge. They begin to think about people's thoughts. They begin to think that somebody can think something different from what they know. That people's thoughts vary, are private, maybe incorrect; people can have false thoughts about something that they know to be true.
Of course, the real moral of this story is that the Mean Monkey always takes the sticker you really want. He doesn't care if you are sad.
'I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for a moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of a cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise ponder): 'A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout.'
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mechanism in Thought and Morals, Phi Beta Kappa address, Harvard Univeristy, June 29, 1870 (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1871).Original copy