Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Attachment- Harlow's Monkey's

I’m not sure if you are all familiar with the famous experiments that psychologist Harry Harlow conducted in the 1950s on maternal deprivation in rhesus monkeys?? But they were landmarks in evolving the science of attachment and loss. Harlow had the experimental rhesus monkeys placed in a cage with both a “wire pretend mother” which was cold and hard yet had the ability to feed the baby monkey and a “warm pretend mother” which offered the baby comfort yet no food. The question was: would the baby prefer the mother that fed him or the mother that could comfort him? The babies spent the majority of their time with the warm mother that they became attached to rather than the wire mother (they only went to the wire mother to eat). This illustrated that a mothers love was emotional rather than physiological. These monkey love experiments had powerful implications for any and all separations of mothers and infants, including adoption, as well as childrearing in general. He also showed through these experiments that the capacity for attachment was closely associated with critical periods in early life, after which it was difficult or impossible to compensate for the loss of initial emotional security. Very interesting experiments, although they made me really sad watching! I wanted to cuddle the babies… for a viewing of the experiments go to:




James Neill said...

Thanks for posting on this Clare (I'm still to check out the video).

I only made brief mention of Harlow's studies in the Relationships lecture with regard to attachment - and I don't think its mentioned in the Bauemeister & Bushman (2008) textbook.

Yet, Harlow's studies are undoubtedly classics in developmental and social psychology, so thanks for looking into this for us!

Erin said...

Hi Clare, thanks for the comments on my blog! I watched the video and I totally agree with you about the poor little baby monkeys..it makes me so sad!!

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