Weird History

An Experiment Took Monkeys Away From Their Mothers To Prove, Scientifically, That Love Exists

You may have heard of Harry Harlow's Monkey Love Experiment. The American psychologist is famous for his research on rhesus monkeys and the effect that maternal contact has on developmental growth. Harlow's monkeys were critical to his research and social isolation experiments. While Harlow and his team came up with some interesting conclusions, their work had critics. Some thought his experiments were almost as inhumane as the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Harlow separated infant monkeys from their biological mothers to observe their attachment behaviors with surrogate mothers made out of metal and cloth. The monkeys were exposed to the surrogates in varying degrees. Harlow and his team also isolated the primates for different periods of time to measure their psychological development. Unsurprisingly, the longer the monkeys were separated from their surrogates or other infants, the more problems they experienced.

As a result of Harlow's psychological findings, the researchers determined that infants bond with their mothers for more than just food and safety. There are also emotional variables that link them together. His research helped boost support for adoption in the nature vs. nurture argument, concluding that love and affection were necessities for a healthy child.