What did I learn:

In an episode of “Lie to Me,” Dr. Lightman compares people to the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies. The Monarch butterfly and the Viceroy butterfly are nearly identical and often mistaken for each other. However, the Monarch is toxic, due to its diet of milkweed, while the Viceroy is non-toxic. Because they are so similar, a predator often mistakes one for the other and avoids both since it assumes they are poisonous.

In this case, the Viceroy is known as the “mimic;” while the Viceroy is not poisonous, it benefits from looking like the Monarch butterfly and is able to avoid predators.  If a bird eats a Monarch first and discovers that it is poisonous, then it will avoid eating Monarchs and Viceroys in the future. However, if a bird preys on the non-poisonous Viceroy first, then it will continue going after the butterflies until it happens to prey on a Monarch. Thus, the population of Viceroys is actually higher than Monarchs.

Why is this significant:

Like butterflies, some people are Monarchs while others are Viceroys. This lesson is three folds:

1. From a prey’s point of view, it is strategic to mimic yourself after someone more capable than yourself rather than than to dwell in self-pity and suffer in your own circumstances. Kids who are bullied need to step up and at least look tough in order to hold their own ground; the evil feeds off the weak so it is better to seem strong than not seem strong at all.  If the Viceroy just allowed itself to be a victim, then it would not have survived.

2. From a predator’s point of view, getting to know people is not black and white. Though you may infer that someone is a ‘bad person,’ there may be more than what meets the eye. Like Viceroys, people put up walls in order to defend themselves; they often lack the confidence to step out from behind their mask. When meeting people, it is important to dig deep and see someone for who they really are rather than profiling them into a stereotype.

3. From a biology point of view, the Viceroy has produced more offsprings than Monarchs through this strategic form of mimicry.

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