Introduction to Psychology

Introductionto Psychology

Introductionto Psychology

Thediscussion is about the Harlow’s monkey experiment. The scientificstudy analyzed the behavior of infant monkeys that were separatedfrom their natural mothers and raised by artificial surrogatemothers. The infant monkeys showed high levels of physical andemotional attachment to the soft terry cloth mother that providedmore psychological benefits. The results of the experiment arecritical in understanding the human physical and cognitivedevelopment processes. Effective human development occurs wheninfants receive high levels of psychological care from their adoptiveor biological parents.

  1. Harlow’s Monkeys Experiment

TheHarlow’s Monkey experiment was conducted by Harry Harlow in 1958.The study was conducted at the University of Wisconsin PrimateLaboratory. In the initial study, infant monkeys and their motherswere separated (Harlow’s Monkeys, 2012). The separation was donebetween six and twelve hours after the mothers gave birth. Substitutemothers were developed to raise the infant monkeys. Two categories ofsubstitute mothers were developed. The first category was developedusing heavy wire. The second category was made using wood and softterry cloth. In one study, the two substitute mothers were placed inone cage. Only one surrogate had the nipple for nursing the infantmonkeys. Some infants got nourishment from the soft cloth mother,while other infants received milk from the wire surrogate mother.When the wire substitute was the only source of milk, the infantsspent short duration feeding. However, the infant monkeys spentlonger duration clinging on the cloth substitute mother (Ellen,2012).

  1. What the Study Shows About Human Behavior and Mental Processes

Humanbehavior and cognitive processes are explained using the Harlow’sstudy. The study explains the concept of attachment. Attachment isthe emotional bond between people. The attachment level is indicatedby the time spent with each other. In the experiment, the infantmonkeys are attached to the terry cloth surrogate mother. The infantmonkeys cling to the surrogate mother for long duration because ofthe high comfort levels. Infant humans are attached to their mothers,whether biological or adopted, because of the physical and cognitivecomfort that they provide. Infants consider mothers as a source ofsecurity. They, therefore, cling to them when faced with perceiveddangerous situations. Infants experience distress and depression whenisolated from their mother. This is even if they are given food bycaregivers. Children will always enjoy their mother’s company whenthe opportunity allows, as opposed to the caregivers. In theexperiment, some infant monkeys received food from the wiresurrogate. But, they immediately went and clung to the comfortablecloth mother immediately after feeding (Harlow’s Monkey, 2012).

  1. Nurture Versus Nature Influences

Natureand nature influences are shown in the study. Harlow studies the keycharacteristic of love using the experiment. Love is a critical issuethat influences the development and relationship of infants and theirmothers. The experiment denotes that love is emotional and notphysiological. The infant monkeys are emotionally attached to theterry cloth mother that provides love, comfort, and security, insteadof the wire surrogate that provides food or nourishment only (NewEngland Anti-Vivisection Society, 2016). Emotional attachment inenhanced because of the comfort and perceived security provided bythe cloth surrogate mother. Nurture is shown by the continuity ofcare provided to the infant monkeys by the cloth surrogate mothers.Nurture, hence, improves emotional attachment between the infanthuman beings and the caring mother. Nature provides onlyphysiological needs for example, food. Infants prefer mothers whoprovide more psychological needs, as opposed to the mother whoprovides only physiological needs. Human infants will cling and spendmore time with the mother or caregiver that provides morepsychological support.

  1. Social Observational Learning

Socialobservational learning entails getting knowledge and understandingthrough studying the behavior of other people and then retaining thecollected information. The information is then used to replicate theobserved behavior (Kendra, 2016). Children apply the concept ofsocial observational learning. They observe and imitate the actionsof the parents, caregivers, teachers, and other members of thesociety. The Harlow’s monkey experiment can be used to analyze themeaning and processes of social observational learning. The isolatedinfant monkeys become cruel during parenthood because they did notreceive good care from natural parents. The experiment monkeysdevelop in isolation. They, therefore, treat their young ones cruellyby chasing or dragging them on the ground (Harlow’s Monkeys, 2012).

  1. Ethical or Unethical?

Thestudy is unethical. This is because it is cruel to animals. Themonkeys used in the experiment experienced emotional and physicalharm. The experiment also provides insufficient knowledge about theeffects of deprivation on young humans. The infant monkeys utilizedin the study were reared in cages. The monkeys, therefore,experienced emotional harm. When the isolated monkeys were placed inone cage with normal monkeys raised naturally, they showed continuousfear that resulted in depression. The isolated monkeys sat togetherin a separate corner of the cage. The study enhanced the anxietylevels of the isolated female monkeys. The high anxiety levelsnegatively affected the parenthood roles of the female monkeys. Themonkey parents became very neurotic. They smashed and dragged theface of their infants several times on the floor (Harlow’s Monkeys,2012).

Organizationsdealing with human health and development should adopt the results ofthe Harlow’s monkey experiment. The experiment provides importantsolutions regarding infant care. In addition to nature orphysiological care, children should be given more nurture care thatimproves psychological outcomes. The psychological outcomes improvethe attachment and trust levels among the children and other membersof the society for instance, caregivers, parents, and earlyeducation teachers.


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Harlow’sMonkey. (2012, September 17). Harlow’s Monkey – YouTube. Retrievedfrom

Kendra,C. (2016). What Is Observational Learning? Retrieved from

NewEngland Anti-Vivisection Society. (2016). Cognitive-BehavioralResearch.Retrieved from