Harry Harlow’s Research On Maternal Comfort And Rhesus Monkeys

822 words - 3 pages

Harry Harlow’s thorough research on the connection between maternal comfort and rhesus monkeys provides information and knowledge to the reader as an insight into our social and emotional development. In this article, Harlow uses experimental observation of mental and emotional associations of the affectionate ties between the child and the mother. As Harlow says, this is “an instinct incapable of analysis”.
Many debates are still circulating concerning research among psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. Former studies on theoretical associations indicate that the affection of a child is begun not only innately, but by the recognition of the mother’s face, body, and other physical characteristics. Affectional development has recently been relevant in the objective that a newborn’s comfort purely comes from breast feeding (as hunger and thirst are babies main concern). Due to the impossibility of using human infants as test subjects, Harlow began his search for a more apt form of possible subjects. Laboratory animals became the ideal apposite test subject. Harlow commenced his research with rhesus monkeys using the hypothesis that monkey behavior would prove to be a significant enlightenment to the origins of infant maternal affection. Considering motor capabilities are extremely limited for the human infant, monkeys were used subordinately to observe and record development of infancy. An advantage to the experiment was also at hand considering that baby monkeys are generally more coordinated at birth compared to human infants, which lack even semi-accurate coordination and mature at a much slower pace.
The first thing that infants emotionally attach to is his or her mother. Subsequently, emotional and social development expand greatly as the child ages. Harlow studied many variables of affection including nursing, contact, clinging, visual, and auditory variables. Precise information is derived from these observations due to the scientific fact that infant monkeys and human infants “exhibit no fundamental differences“. Harlow’s research primarily revolved around the study of infant rhesus monkeys and their level of desire to bond with surrogate mother monkeys. Two surrogate mothers were equally available to each baby monkey. Observation of tolerance was recorded as each monkey passably chose between a welded-wire surrogate mother and a surrogate mother covered with terry cloth. Results showed that an equal number of monkeys fed from each of the surrogate mothers, however, they spent more time with the cloth mother as they would climb and cling to her. These results significantly disclose the resemblance between humans and monkeys...

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