What really struck me about this segment of the documentary was the discussion of Harry Harlow's Wire Mother Experiment. The tl;dr (too long; didn't read) version of this experiment is this: back in the days where experiments with questionable ethics were still allowed, a psychologist named Harry Harlow conducted a series of highly controversial experiments with rhesus monkeys to explore the "power" of love. One of these experiments was called The Wire Mother Experiment. Only a few hours after birth, each rhesus monkey was put in a cage with two wire "surrogate" mothers; one of the mothers was covered in a comforting terry cloth towel but provided no food. The other mother was purely wire but provided food in an attached bottle. Over the course of the experiment, all monkeys were found to have spent significantly more time with the terry cloth mother despite the lack of food. "These data make it obvious that contact comfort is a variable of overwhelming importance in the development of affectional response, whereas lactation is a variable of negligible importance," Harlow explained (1958). There is no element of this experiment that doesn't strike me as tragic; from the ethics of the treatment of these monkeys right up to the conclusions that can be drawn from the study.
As taken from the Wikipedia:
The importance of these findings is that they contradicted both the then common pedagogic advice of limiting or avoiding bodily contact in an attempt to avoid spoiling children and the insistence of the then dominant behaviorist school of psychology that emotions were negligible. Feeding was thought to be the most important factor in the formation of a mother-child bond. Harlow concluded, however, that nursing strengthened the mother-child bond because of the intimate body contact that it provided. He described his experiments as a study of love. He also believed that contact comfort could be provided by either mother or father. Though widely accepted now, this idea was revolutionary at the time.
I think we can take a lot from this information, or at least, I do. I find it especially interesting to think about how it relates to contemporary opinions on the Cry It Out method, breast feeding, and Attachment Parenting in general. I'm no scientist so I can't really speak super intelligently about the specific conclusions we can draw, but I think it's food for thought.
Here is a video that talks more about the experiment:
More about this:
Harry Harlow on the Wikipedia
The Nature of Love (1958) - Harry Harlow, American Psychologist, 13, 573-685
Harry Harlow: Monkey Love Experiments - Adoption History
Harry Harlow - A Science Odyssey: People and Experiment
Chicken Wire Mother
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