The centipede and the toad

Once there was a Toad who was envious of Centipede’s speed and agility. He was unable to catch him, so instead he caught him with words.

‘You have so many legs,’ said Toad. ‘How do ‘you manage to move them all in the right order?’

Centipede stopped to think about it. He was not exactly sure. He tried to make his legs move in the order they usually moved in, but he found he could not. In fact, he realised, he could not move at all. He lay immobilised in the ditch, while Toad hopped away slowly, very pleased with himself.

This is not an ancient fable, at least I don’t think it is. It has given name to the “Centipede Effect“. As the psychologist George Humphrey wrote (about a poem version of the fable) in 1923:

“This is a most psychological rhyme. It contains a profound truth which is illustrated daily in the lives of all of us, for exactly the same thing happens if we pay conscious attention to any well-formed habit, such as walking.”



  1. Jen said

    Do you know the Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede by Matt McGinn? similar story.

    “Never try an explanation of what comes naturally”

  2. simonsterg said

    Thank you, Jen! I didn’t know that! What a great song!

    (season’s greetings to you!)

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: