A theorist
Early Years
Harry Harlow: The Man Behind
the Experiment
Harry Harlow is a psychologist who
received a B.A. and Ph.D. from
Stanford University.
 University of Wisconsin, where he
established a Psychology Primate
 He began to study the different
mannerisms of love.
 This experiment may have been
derived from Harlow’s own
experience as an infant as he was
often alienated from his mother.
Harry Harlow (1905-1981)
He believed by studying
primates, psychologists would
gain a better understanding of
human behaviour.
He believed infants formed an
attachment to those who
provided them with
nourishment (food).
So he designed an experiment to find
the answer to this important question:
Which urge is stronger:
1. the need for love
2. or the satisfaction of physical needs
(specifically, food)?
The Surrogate Mother
The Surrogate Mother
He used rhesus monkeys because
– their similarities to human infants’ behaviours
with their mothers (for example, clinging,
“language” learning, nursing)
He removed the young monkeys from
their mothers before they had a chance to
bond and kept them isolated
The “mothers”
The monkeys were kept in a cage
with two “mothers”, both made of a
wire mesh.
 Mother 1:
– Covered with a tan coloured terry
cloth (very soft and comfortable);
 Mother 2:
– the other offered food in the form
of a bottle from its breast area,
but only a wired frame .
Both mothers were warmed with
radiant heat.
The monkeys preferred the cloth
mother, even though she did not
provide food.
They spent significantly more time
with the cloth mother.
Monkeys would go to the wire mother
for food, but always returned to cloth
When they were anxious, the
monkeys would cling to the cloth
The monkey would rather stay with
the cloth mother for comfort rather
than the wire mother for food.
Food or security?
Infants depend on their caregivers for
more than just their physical needs –
meeting emotional needs is crucial for
Children in early years would expect a
warm and caring mother, similarly to the
cloth mother.
Monkeys that did not receive affection
early in life often experienced
psychological problems later on (such as
misdirected aggression or abusive
Watch 1.24
When the cloth mother was removed
– the monkeys were frantic.
– After it was given back, their connection
Children need their mother’s comfort
like in the experiment.
Once children are attached to their
mother, they can’t live without her.
Scaring the
Intensifying Love
Harlow’s findings
– disproved predictions by reinforcement
theorists that love is a secondary or a
derived drive associated with the
reduction of hunger/thirst.
Findings and The Study of Love
– Staying Power of Love- Proved this by
removing some infants from their cloth
surrogates for five months.
 The reunion of those monkeys
revealed that deprivation has
intensified the tie to the “mother”.
– Contact comfort could be provided by
either mother or father.
– This idea is widely accepted now, but was
revolutionary in the time that Harlow
– He stated that nursing strengthened the
mother-child bond because of the intimate
body contact that it provided.
Children & Harlow's research,
– insight on behaviours of abused children,
– improved methods of giving care to
institutionalized children,
– allowed fathers and adoptive parents to feel
confident in providing parental care.
Many studies that followed have offered
– that the attachment of human children
to their caregivers goes far beyond a desire
for biological needs to be fulfilled.
Children, just like monkeys, would also turn to
their mother for comfort and security.
If they are left by themselves they might not
feel comfortable and safe and start to scream or
Impact of
Early Years
in the
Long Term
Social isolation rendered by infants from their
mothers can cause them to behave socially
incompetent in the future.
Affection towards children is not merely a
sentimental gesture; it serves many purposes for
normal childhood development.
More attention should be devoted to the
experimental research of love.
Earliest mother-child attachment data makes
it obvious that contact comfort is a variable of
overwhelming importance in the development
of the affection response.
In society there is a great importance of
emotional support, affection, and love in the
development of children.
Application to