Harlow and the monkeys

Did you know…..

that Harry Harlow (1905-1981) carried out interesting experiments in the sixties on the psychological effects on the offspring of rhesus monkeys isolated from their mothers?

What this American psychologist, companion of Abraham Maslow in the University of Wisconsin, saw is that the physical contact with the mother in the pups of rhesus monkeys is tremendously important for the normal psychological development of these monkeys.

In one of his experiments Harlow put some monkey pups with a “mother” made of soft towel cloth, which did not give the monkey any food. There was another “mother” made of wire next to which was a bottle from which the baby could eat. The cubs had been kept away from their real mothers a few hours after birth. Well, the result was that the babies spent more time with the rag mother than with the wire mother, although this one could “feed them” and the other did not.

The psychoanalyst John Bowlby had already demonstrated the importance of contact with the mother, “Theory of attachment,” in human babies. The American psychoanalyst René Spitz had also reached similar conclusions by studying children far from their mothers.

On the other hand, somehow the experiments of Harlow and the studies of the psychoanalysts cited contradicted the assertion of the first behaviorists who underestimated the role of emotions and focused solely on the study of behavior. These behaviorists considered that only measurable behaviors should be studied or investigated, and what was not so, they did not consider it scientific. Behavioral psychologist John Watson said the following: “When tempted to caress your child, remember that mother’s love is a dangerous instrument.”

 

(Edited by María Moya Guirao, M.D.)

 

mona con su cría

mona con su cría

 

 

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