Baby Duck

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Baby Duck Story

The story is told of a famous ethologist, Konrad Lorenz. One day in his backyard he experimented with imprinting baby ducklings—that is, getting them to respond to him as though he were their mother. To do so he walked in the pattern of a figure eight as he crouched over, quacking without interruption while he glanced constantly over his shoulder. He was an older man with a long white beard. Dr. Lorenz was congratulating himself on his spectacular feat of getting these baby ducklings to follow him and attach themselves to him. At this moment of self-congratulation, he looked up—right into the faces of a group of tourists passing by! They looked horrified! And then Konrad Lorenz realized that from the tourists' vantage point the baby ducklings could not be seen because at that very moment they were hidden in the grass.

Consequently, what the onlookers saw was a crazy old man making circles and quacking. Without the fuller picture—that is, the ducklings and the intent behind Konrad's behavior—a brilliant ethologist's imprinting experiment looked only like craziness

(Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, Pragmatics of Human Communication, 1967, 20).

Sister Wendy Watson shared this short story at the BYU 1999 Women's Conference, illustrating that we shouldn't judge without knowing the whole situation  (link to entire talk):