Discovering Love (Based On Harry Harlow Studies)

4195 words - 17 pages


Discovering Love (Based on Harry Harlow studies)


Initially in the 20th century, many psychologists believed that showing love and care to others, especially children, was merely a maudlin gesture, one that is borne of relationships and connections and serves no real purpose.

"When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that the love of a mother is a dangerous instrument" (John B. Watson)

According to behaviorist John B. Watson and many other psychologists and thinkers of the time, love and affection and showing care, only spread disease and lead to psychological problems when the child grew into an adult.

During this time, ...view middle of the document...

They were controversial experiments because many of them were unethical, and maybe not malicious but extremely cruel, yet they did manage to uncover essential truths that have heavily influenced our understanding of proper child growth.

Understanding the nature of these experiments, how they were conducted and to what purpose they were conducted is an essential part of discovering what exactly Harlow was trying to unearth and himself, understand. If we take his experiments into perspective, we will see that his work verified the significance of love, care-giving and friendship in the early stages of primate growth and growth and in addition, for human beings.


In order to understand the psychology behind his experiments, and to see what they contributed in the field of psychology, we will first go through the experiments and study itself.


First and foremost was the "Surrogate mother experiment" which was a part of a famous series of experiments which were conducted in the 1960s, where Harlow removed baby rhesus monkeys from their mothers and divided them into two groups.

In the fist group, a terrycloth surrogate did not provide food, and a wire surrogate provided the baby monkeys with milk. In the second group, the terrycloth surrogate was the one which provided the food and the wire surrogate did not. This resulted in the young monkeys relying heavily on their terrycloth "mother" whether it supplied them with foodstuff or not and the monkeys only went to the wire "mother" when it provided food, otherwise they didn't.

Other tests were done on the monkeys to see how dependent they were on their "mothers" and which "mother" were they more dependent on and which gave them more "comfort".

When the baby monkeys were tested with a scary or frightening stimulus, they ran to the cloth surrogate for comfort and protection, regardless of the fact which "mother" provided them with food.

When place in unfamiliar surroundings with the cloth surrogate, the baby monkeys clung to their "mother" until they felt safe enough to investigate and explore. Once they began to explore, they would return to their cloth mother intermittently for comfort. But the monkeys that were placed in an unfamiliar room without their cloth surrogate acted quiet differently than the ones placed with the cloth surrogate. These monkeys acted frightened by their surroundings, they would crouch down, cry out in fear, suck at their thumbs, run from object to object, seeming as if searching for their cloth mother while crying and screaming. Monkey's placed in an unfamiliar surrounding with their wire mother's exhibited the exact same behavior was the monkeys without any mother.

When the monkeys grew up and reached an age when they could eat on their own and no longer needed their mother...


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