American Psychologist
 He provided a new understanding of human
behavior and development through studies of
social behavior of monkeys.
 His research contributions (in the areas of
learning, motivation, and affection) have major
relevance for general and child psychology.
Harlow's research developed
 an abundant supply of primate learning tests and tasks
that became standards in the field.
 Harlow wanted to prove to the psychology community
that primate research could contribute to the
understanding of important clinical issues without
having to be molecular in nature.
 His theory hinged on the universal need for contact.
 Harlow's famous wire/cloth "mother" monkey studies
demonstrated that the need for affection created a
stronger bond between mother and infant than did
physical needs (food).
In Harlow's initial experiments, infant monkeys
were separated from their mothers at six to twelve
hours after birth and were raised instead with
substitute or "surrogate" mothers made either of
heavy wire mesh or of wood covered with cloth.
Both mothers were the same size, but the wire
mother had no soft surfaces while the other
mother was cuddly covered with foam rubber and
soft terry cloth. Both mothers were also warmed by
an electric light placed inside them.
In one experiment both types of surrogates were
present in the cage, but only one was equipped
with a nipple from which the infant could nurse.
Some infants received nourishment from the wire
mother, and others were fed from the cloth
mother. Even when the wire mother was the
source of nourishment (and a source of warmth
provided by the electric light), the infant monkey
spent a greater amount of time clinging to the
cloth surrogate. These results led researchers to
believe the need for closeness and affection goes
deeper than a need for warmth.
These monkeys raised by the dummy mothers
engaged in strange behavioral patterns later in
their adult life. Some sat clutching themselves,
rocking constantly back and forth; a stereotypical
behavior pattern for excessive and misdirected
 Normal sexual behaviors were replaced my
misdirected and atypical patterns: isolate females
ignored approaching normal males, while isolate
males made inaccurate attempts to copulate with
normal females.
As parents, these isolate female monkeys (the
"motherless mothers" as Harlow called them) were
either negligent or abusive. Negligent mothers did not
nurse, comfort, or protect their young, nor did they harm
them. The abusive mothers violently bit or otherwise
injured their babies, to the point that many of them died.
Deprivation of emotional bonds to live mother monkeys
(as infant monkeys) these (now adult) monkeys were
unable to create a secure attachment with their own
(Principles of General Psychology, 1980, John Wiley and
Harlow's research suggested
 the importance of mother/child bonding.
 Not only does the child look to his/her mother
for basic needs such as food, safety, and
warmth, but he also needs to feel love,
acceptance, and affection from the caregiver.
 His findings show some long-term
psychological physical effects of delinquent or
inadequate attentiveness to child needs.
Harlow also did learning research with his
monkeys. His theory, "Learning to Learn",
described the ability of animals to slowly learn
a general rule that could then be applied to
rapidly solve new problem sets.
Harlow's learning research demonstrates that
animals, like humans, are able to learn to apply
strategies or rules to situations to help them
solve problems.

COU 522 Harry Harlow