Harry Harlow : Attachment Theory

Harry Harlow : the Beginings of Attachment Theory

Opening Skinner's Box : Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century by Lauren Slater (W.W. Norton & Co. New York, 2004) pp. 138-139.

So, they started [Harry Harlow and his team at the University of Wisconsin]. They took a group of newborn rhesus macaque babies and put them in the cage with the two surrogate mothers: the wire mother full of food, the cloth mother with an empty breast and a sweet smile. Lab assistants' notes detail the trauma of the experiment: the real mother macqques, realizing their babies were being stolen, screaming and banging their head against the cage; the infants choo-chooing as they were hurled into a separate space. Hour after hour this animal fear going on, and the lab filled with the stench of it, anxious scat, soft stools inicating, Harlow writes, high emotionality. The cages were smeared gold with grief, the infant macaques all balled over themselves with their tailes held high to show their tiny oozing anuses.

But then, Harlow observed something amazing start to happen. within a matter of days, the baby macaques transferred their affections from the real mother, who was no longer available, to the cloth surrogate mother, to whom they clung, over whom they crawled, manipulating her face in their miniature hands, biting her gently, spending hours upon hours on her beling and back. The cloth mother, however, had no milk, so when the youngsters were hungry, they would scamper off, dart over to the steel mammary machine--that chicken-wire mother--and then, having had their fill from the founntain, run back to the safety of the soft towel.

Harlow graphed the mean amount of time th emonkeys spent nursing versus cuddling, and his heart must have pattered fast, for he was on the brink of discovery, and then he was over discovery's edge.

"We were not surprised to discover that contact comfort was an important basic affectional or love variable, but we did not expect it to overshadow so completely the variable of nursing, indeed the disparity is so great as to suggest that the primary function of nursing. . .is that of insuring frequent and intimate body contact of the infant with the mother."

Here Harlow was establishing that love grows from touch, not taste, which is why, when the mother's milk dries up, as it inevitably does, the child continues to love her, and then the child takes the love, the memory of it, and recasts in outward, so that every interaction is a replay and a revision of this early tactile touch. "Certainly," writes Harlow, "men cannot live by milk alone."

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Click the "Play" arrow, and the video will be streamed to this page from YouTube.com (bpolnariev).

[John B.] Watson(1) believed that emotions should be controlled. They were messy; they were complicated. The job of a scientist, of any rational human being, should be to figure out how to command them. (p. 38)

[Watson] argued that adules--parents, teachers, doctors--should concen trate on conditioning and training children. Their job was to provide the right stimulus and induce the correct response.

And that was what Watson argued, forcefully, in his 1928 bestseller. The Psychological Care of the Child and Infant. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell proclaimed it the first child-rearing book of scientific merit. Watson, he said, had triumphed by studying babies the way "the man science studies the amoebae." The Atlantic Monthly called it indispensable; the New York Times said that Watson's writings had begun "a new epoch in the intellectual history of man." Parents magazine called his advice a must for the bookshelf of every enlightened parent.

And if parents chose affectiion and nurturing instead, ignoring his advice? In his own words, there are "serious rocks ahead for the over-kissed child." Watson demanded not only disciplined children but disciplined parents. (p. 39 )
quoted from Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the science of affection
Author : Deborah Blum
Edition illustrated
Publisher : Basic Books, 2002
ISBN : 0738202789, 9780738202785

(1) "John Broadus Watson (1878-1958) is widely regarded as having been the founder of the school of behaviorism, which dominated much of North American psychology between 1920 and 1960."
See : Classics in the History of Psychology
An internet resource developed by Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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The following is an additional short video of the Harry Harlow's experiments with Rhesus monkeys, and this one is in color.


Harry Harlow - Will It Be Food or Security? (solomonopoly)