Harry Harlow Essay

1149 words - 5 pages

Harry Israel was born in Fairfield, a small town in Iowa. He was the third of four boys and grew up in a family that placed a top quality on the value of education. When he completed his bachelor and doctoral degrees at Stanford University, his advisor convinced Harry to change his surname from Israel to Harlow because of the concern of possible discrimination of his last name. In 1930, Harlow began work as a comparative psychologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and remained there for his entire career. Among many honors, Harlow was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was elected president of the American Psychological Association, and received the National Medal of ...view middle of the document...

In the total isolation experiments baby monkeys would be left alone for 3, six, 12, or 24 months of "total social deprivation." The experiments produced monkeys that were severely psychologically disturbed.
Harlow wrote:
“No monkey has died during isolation. When initially removed from total social isolation, however, they usually go into a state of emotional shock, characterized by ... autistic self-clutching and rocking. One of six monkeys isolated for 3 months refused to eat after release and died 5 days later. The autopsy report attributed death to emotional anorexia. ... The effects of 6 months of total social isolation were so devastating and debilitating that we had assumed initially that 12 months of isolation would not produce any additional decrement. This assumption proved to be false; 12 months of isolation almost obliterated the animals socially …”
Harlow tried to reintegrate the monkeys who had been isolated for six months by placing them with monkeys who had been raised normally. The rehabilitation attempts met with limited success. Harlow wrote that total social isolation for the first six months of life produced "severe deficits in virtually every aspect of social behavior." Isolates exposed to monkeys the same age who were reared normally "achieved only limited recovery of simple social responses." Some monkey mothers reared in isolation exhibited "acceptable maternal behavior when forced to accept infant contact over a period of months, but showed no further recovery." Isolates given to surrogate mothers developed “crude interactive patterns among themselves.” Opposed to this, when six-month isolates were exposed to younger, three-month-old monkeys, they achieved “essentially complete social recovery for all situations tested.” The findings were confirmed by other researchers, who found no difference between peer-therapy recipients and mother-reared infants, but found that artificial surrogates had very little effect. (Suomi)
Harlow led psychology away from the paradigm of clinical sterility that had misguided a century of research into child-rearing. Given the tragic state of children in "scientifically informed" institutions, there can be no doubt that a great many lives were saved by the work of Harlow and his colleagues. The life-saving revelations came with a price: Harlow’s primate subjects were treated with extreme cruelty--not gratuitously, but by the very design of his experiments. (Karl Giberson)
Apart from Harlow’s work his personal life consisted of two marriages...

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