October 31, 1905|
Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||December 6, 1981
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
|Notable awards||National Medal of Science (1967)
Gold Medal from American Psychological
Howard Crosby Warren Medal (1956)
Harry Frederick Harlow (October 31, 1905 – December 6, 1981) was an American psychologist best known for his maternal-separation, dependency needs, and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, which demonstrated the importance of care-giving and companionship in social and cognitive development. He conducted most of his research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow worked for a time with him.
Harlow's experiments were controversial; they included rearing infant macaques in isolation chambers for up to 24 months, from which they emerged severely disturbed. Some researchers cite the experiments as a factor in the rise of the animal liberation movement in the United States.
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Born Harry Israel on October 31, 1905 to Mabel Rock and Alonzo Harlow Israel, Harlow grew up in Fairfield, Iowa, the second youngest of four brothers. After a year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Harlow obtained admission to Stanford University on a special aptitude test. After a semester as an English major with nearly disastrous grades, he declared himself as a psychology major.
Harlow studied largely under Lewis Terman, the developer of the Stanford-Binet IQ Test, who helped shape Harlow's future. After receiving a Ph.D. in 1930, Harlow changed his name from Israel to Harlow. The change was made at Terman's behest for fear of the negative consequences of having a seemingly Jewish last name - although the family was not Jewish.
Directly after completing his doctoral dissertation, Harlow accepted a professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Harlow was unsuccessful in persuading the Department of Psychology to provide him with adequate laboratory space. As a result, Harlow acquired a vacant building down the street from the University, and he and his graduate students renovated the building into what became the Primate Laboratory, one of the first of its kind in the world. Under Harlow's direction, it became a place of cutting-edge research at which some 40 students earned their Ph.D.s.
Harlow received numerous awards and honors, including the Howard Crosby Warren Medal (1956), the National Medal of Science (1967), and the Gold Medal from the American Psychological Foundation (1973). He served as head of the Human Resources Research branch of the Department of the Army from 1950–1952, head of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Research Council from 1952–1955, consultant to the Army Scientific Advisory Panel, and president of the American Psychological Association from 1958-1959.
Harlow's personal life was complicated. He first married Clara Mears in 1932. One of the select children with an IQ above 150 whom Terman studied at Stanford, Clara was Harlow's student before becoming romantically involved with him. The couple had two children, Robert and Richard. Harlow and Mears divorced in 1946. That same year, Harlow married child psychologist Margaret Kuenne. The marriage produced another two children, Pamela and Jonathan. Margaret died in August 1971 after a prolonged struggle with cancer. In March 1972, Harlow remarried Clara Mears. The couple lived together in Tucson, Arizona until Harlow's death in 1981.
Monkey studies 
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Dr. Harry Harlow came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1930 after obtaining his doctorate under the guidance of several distinguished researchers, including Calvin Stone and Lewis Terman, at Stanford University. Dr. Harlow began his career with nonhuman primate research working with the primates at the Henry Vilas Zoo, where he developed the Wisconsin General Testing Apparatus (WGTA) to study learning, cognition, and memory. It was through these studies that Harlow discovered that the monkeys he worked with were developing strategies for his tests. What would later become known as learning sets, Harlow described as “learning to learn”.
In order to study the development of these learning sets, Harlow needed access to developing primates, so he established a breeding colony of Rhesus macaques in 1932. Due to the nature of his study, Harlow needed regular access to infant primates and thus chose to rear them in a nursery setting, rather than with their protective mothers. This alternative rearing technique, also called maternal deprivation, is highly controversial to this day, and is used, in variants, as a model of early life adversity in primates.
Research with and caring for infant rhesus monkeys further inspired Harlow, and ultimately led to some of his best known experiments: the surrogate mothers. Although Harlow, his students, contemporaries, and associates soon learned how to care for the physical needs of their infant monkeys, the nursery-reared infants remained very different from their mother-reared peers. Psychologically speaking, these infants were slightly strange: they were reclusive and had definite social deficits, and they clung to their cloth diapers.
Noticing their attachment to the soft cloth of their diapers and the psychological changes that correlated with the absence of a maternal figure, Harlow sought to investigate the mother-infant bond. This relationship was under fire in the early twentieth century as B.F. Skinner and the Behaviorists took on John Bowlby in the discussion of the mother’s importance in the development of the child, the nature of their relationship, and the impact of physical contact between parent and child.
The studies were motivated by John Bowlby's World Health Organization-sponsored study and report, "Maternal Care and Mental Health" in 1950, in which Bowlby reviewed previous studies on the effects of institutionalization on child development such as René Spitz's and his own surveys on children raised in a variety of settings. In 1953, his colleague, James Robertson, produced a short and controversial documentary film titled A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital demonstrating the almost immediate effects of maternal separation. Bowlby's report, coupled with Robertson's film, demonstrated the importance of the primary caregiver in human and non-human primate development. Bowlby de-emphasized the mother's role in feeding as a basis for the development of a strong mother-child relationship. However, his conclusions generated much debate. It was the debate concerning the reasons behind the demonstrated need for maternal care that Harlow addressed in his studies with surrogates. The Behaviorists argued that mothers were essential to children, only in that they provided food. Physical contact with infants was considered harmful to their development and this view led to sterile, contactless nurseries across the country. Bowlby disagreed, saying that the mother provides much more than food to the infant, including a unique bond that positively influences the child’s development and mental health.
To investigate the debate, Dr. Harlow created inanimate surrogate mothers for the rhesus infants from wire and wood. Each infant became attached to its particular mother, recognizing its unique face and preferring it above all others. Harlow next chose to investigate if the infants had a preference for bare wire mothers or cloth covered mothers. For this experiment he presented the infants with a cloth mother and a wire mother under two conditions. In one situation, the wire mother held a bottle with food and the cloth mother held no food, and in the other, the cloth mother held the bottle and the wire mother had nothing.
Overwhelmingly, the infant macaques preferred spending their time clinging to the cloth mother. Even when only the wire mother could provide nourishment, the monkeys visited her only to feed. Harlow concluded that there was much more to the mother/infant relationship than milk and that this “contact comfort” was essential to the psychological development and health of infant monkeys and children. It was this research that gave strong, empirical support to Bowlby’s assertions on the importance of love and mother/child interaction.
Successive experiments concluded that infants used the surrogate as a base for exploration and a source of comfort and protection in novel and even frightening situations. In an experiment called the “open-field test,” an infant was placed in a novel environment with novel objects. When the infant’s surrogate mother was present, it clung to her, but then began venturing off to explore. If frightened, the infant would run back to the surrogate and cling to her for a time before sallying forth again. Without the surrogate mother’s presence, the monkeys were paralyzed with fear, huddling in a ball and sucking their thumbs.
In the “fear test,” infants were presented with a fearful stimulus, often a noisemaking teddy bear. Without the mother, the infants cowered and avoided the object. When the surrogate mother was present, however, the infant did not show great fearful responses and often contacted the device—exploring and attacking it.
Another study looked at the differentiated effects of being raised with only either a wire mother or a cloth mother. Both groups gained weight at equal rates, but the monkeys raised on a wire mother has softer stool and trouble digesting the milk, frequently suffering from diarrhea. Harlow's interpretation of this behavior, which is still widely accepted, was that a lack of contact comfort is psychologically stressful to the monkeys and the digestive problems are a physiological manifestation of that stress.
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.
Some of Dr. Harlow’s final experiments explored social deprivation in the quest to create an animal model for the study of depression. This study is the most controversial and involved isolation of infant and juvenile macaques for various periods of time. Monkeys placed in isolation exhibited social deficits when introduced or re-introduced into a peer group. They appeared unsure of how to interact with their conspecifics and mostly stayed separate from the group, demonstrating the importance of social interaction and stimuli in forming the ability to interact with conspecifics in developing monkeys, and, comparatively, in children.
Critics of Harlow's research have observed that clinging is a matter of survival in young rhesus monkeys, but not in humans, and have suggested that his conclusions, when applied to humans, overestimate the importance of contact comfort and underestimate the importance of nursing.
Harlow first reported the results of these experiments in "The Nature of Love", the title of his address to the sixty-sixth Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., August 31, 1958.
Partial and total isolation of infant monkeys 
From around 1960 onwards, Harlow and his students began publishing their observations on the effects of partial and total social isolation. Partial isolation involved raising monkeys in bare wire cages that allowed them to see, smell, and hear other monkeys, but provided no opportunity for physical contact. Total social isolation involved rearing monkeys in isolation chambers that precluded any and all contact with other monkeys.
Harlow et al. reported that partial isolation resulted in various abnormalities such as blank staring, stereotyped repetitive circling in their cages, and self-mutilation. These monkeys were then observed in various settings. For the study, some of the monkeys were kept in solitary isolation for 15 years.
In the total isolation experiments baby monkeys would be left alone for three, 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.
Since Harlow's pioneering work in touch research in development, recent work in rats have found evidence that touch during infancy have resulted in a decrease in corticosteroid, a steroid hormone involved in stress, and an increase in glucocorticoid receptors in many regions of the brain. Schanberg and Field found that even short-term interruption of mother-pup interaction in rats markedly affected several biochemical processes in the developing pup: a reduction in ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity, a sensitive index of cell growth and differentiation; a reduction in growth hormone release (in all body organs, including the heart and liver and throughout the brain, including the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem); an increase in corticosterone secretion; and suppressed tissue ODC responsivity to administered growth hormone. Additionally, it has been found that these animals who were touch deprived had weakened immune systems. Investigators have measured a direct, positive relationship between the amount of contact and grooming an infant monkey receives during its first six months of life and its ability to produce antibody titer (IgG and IgM) in response to an antibody challenge (tetanus) at a little over one year of age. Trying to identify a mechanism for the "immunology of touch," some investigators point to modulations of arousal and associated CNS-hormonal activity. Touch deprivation may cause stress-induced activation of the pituitary-adrenal system, which, in turn, leads to increased plasma cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Likewise, researchers suggest, regular and "natural" stimulation of the skin may moderate these pituitary-adrenal responses in a positive and healthful way.
Pit of despair 
Harlow was well known for refusing to use conventional terminology, and instead chose deliberately outrageous terms for the experimental apparatus he devised. The tendency arose from an early conflict with the conventional psychological establishment in which Harlow used the term "love" in place of the popular and archaically correct term, "attachment." Such terms and respective devices included a forced-mating device he called the "rape rack," tormenting surrogate mother devices he called "Iron maidens," and an isolation chamber he called the "pit of despair" developed by him and a graduate student, Stephen Suomi, now director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Comparative Ethology Laboratory, at the National Institutes of Health.
In the latter of these devices, alternatively called the "well of despair," baby monkeys were left alone in darkness for up to one year from birth, or repetitively separated from their peers and isolated in the chamber. These procedures quickly produced monkeys that were severely psychologically disturbed and used as models of human depression.
Harlow tried to rehabilitate monkeys that had been subjected to varying degrees of isolation using various forms of therapy. "In our study of psychopathology, we began as sadists trying to produce abnormality. Today we are psychiatrists trying to achieve normality and equanimity." (p. 458)
Many of his experiments would be considered unethical today, and their nature and Harlow's descriptions of them heightened awareness of the treatment of laboratory animals and thus contributed to today's ethics regulations. Gene Sackett of the University of Washington in Seattle, who was one of Harlow's doctoral students, has stated that he believes the animal liberation movement in the U.S. was born as a result of Harlow's experiments.
Willam Mason, another of Harlow's students who continued deprivation experiments after leaving Wisconsin, has said that Harlow "kept this going to the point where it was clear to many people that the work was really violating ordinary sensibilities, that anybody with respect for life or people would find this offensive. It's as if he sat down and said, 'I'm only going to be around another ten years. What I'd like to do, then, is leave a great big mess behind.' If that was his aim, he did a perfect job."
|1905||Born October 31 in Fairfield, Iowa Son of Alonzo and Mabel (Rock) Israel|
|1930-44||Staff, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Married Clara Mears
|1939-40||Carnegie Fellow of Anthropology at Columbia University|
|1944-74||George Cary Comstock Research Professor of Psychology|
|1946||Divorced Clara Mears|
|1948||Married Margaret Kuenne|
|1947-48||President, Midwestern Psychological Association|
|1950-51||President of Division of Experimental Psychology, American Psychological Association|
|1950-52||Head of Human Resources Research Branch, Department of the Army|
|1953-55||Head of Division of Anthropology and Psychology, National Research Council|
|1956||Howard Crosby Warren Medal for outstanding contributions to the field of experimental psychology|
|1956-74||Director of Primate Lab, University of Wisconsin|
|1958-59||President, American Psychological Association|
|1959,65||Sigma Xi National Lecturer|
|1960||Distinguished Psychologist Award, American Psychological Association
Messenger Lecturer at Cornell University
|1961-71||Director of Regional Primate Research Center|
|1964-65||President of Division of Comparative & Physiological Psychology, American Psychological Association|
|1967||National Medal of Science|
|1970||Death of his spouse, Margaret|
|1971||Harris Lecturer at Northwestern University
Remarried Clara Mears
|1972||Martin Rehfuss Lecturer at Jefferson Medical College
Gold Medal from American Psychological Foundation
Annual Award from Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
|1974||University of Arizona (Tucson) Honorary Research Professor of Psychology|
|1975||Von Gieson Award from New York State Psychiatric Institute|
|1976||International Award from Kittay Scientific Foundation|
|1981||Died December 6|
Early papers 
- The effect of large cortical lesions on learned behavior in monkeys. Science. 1950.
- Retention of delayed responses and proficiency in oddity problems by monkeys with preoccipital ablations. Am J Psychol. 1951.
- Discrimination learning by normal and brain operated monkeys. J Genet Psychol. 1952.
- Incentive size, food deprivation, and food preference. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1953.
- Effect of cortical implantation of radioactive cobalt on learned behavior of rhesus monkeys. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1955.
- The effects of repeated doses of total-body x radiation on motivation and learning in rhesus monkeys. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1956.
Theatrical portrayal 
A theatrical play, The Harry Harlow Project, based on the life and work of Harlow, has been produced in Victoria and performed nationally in Australia.
- Harlow HF, Dodsworth RO, Harlow MK. "Total social isolation in monkeys," Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1965.
- McKinney, William T. (2003). Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 2254-2255.
- Blum, Deborah. Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection. Perseus Publishing, 2002, p. 225.
- Suomi, S. J. and Leroy, H. A. (1982), In memoriam: Harry F. Harlow (1905–1981). Am. J. Primatol., 2: 319–342. doi: 10.1002/ajp.1350020402
- Spitz, R. A., & Wolf, K. M. Anaclitic depression: an inquiry into the genesis of psychiatric conditions in early childhood. II. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child,(2),313-342. 1946.
- Harlow, H. F. (1958). The nature of love.
- Mason, W.A. Early social deprivation in the nonhuman primates: Implications for human behavior. 70-101; in D.C. Glass (ed.) Environmental Influences. New York: Rockefeller University and Russell Sage Foundation, 1968.
- A variation of this housing method, using cages with solid sides as opposed to wire mesh, but retaining the one-cage, one-monkey scheme, remains a common housing practice in primate laboratories today. (Reinhardt V, Liss C, Stevens C. "Social Housing of Previously Single-Caged Macaques: What are the options and the Risks?" Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Animal Welfare 4: 307-328. 1995.)
- Harlow, H.F. Development of affection in primates. Pp. 157-166 in: Roots of Behavior (E.L. Bliss, ed.). New York: Harper. 1962.
- Harlow, H.F. Early social deprivation and later behavior in the monkey. Pp. 154-173 in: Unfinished tasks in the behavioral sciences (A.Abrams, H.H. Gurner & J.E.P. Tomal, eds.) Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins. 1964.
- 1976 Suomi SJ, Delizio R, Harlow HF. "Social rehabilitation of separation-induced depressive disorders in monkeys."
- Harlow, Harry F. and Suomi, Stephen J. (1971). "Social Recovery by Isolation-Reared Monkeys", Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 68(7):1534-1538.
- Harlow, Harry F. and Suomi, Stephen J. (1971). "Social Recovery by Isolation-Reared Monkeys", Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 68(7):1534-1538; Suomi, Stephen J; Harlow, Harry F; McKinney, William T. (1972) "Monkey Psychiatrists", American Journal of Psychiatry 128:927-932.
- Cummins, Mark S. and Suomi, Stephen J. (1976) "Long-term effects of social rehabilitation in rhesus monkeys", Primates 17(1):43-51.
- Schanberg S, and Field T. Maternal deprivation and supplemental stimulation. In Stress and Coping Across Development, Field T, McCabe P, and Schneiderman N, eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; 1988.
- Laudenslager ML, Rasmussen KLR, Berman CM, Suomi SJ, and Berger CB. Specific antibody levels in free-ranging rhesus monkeys: relationships to plasma hormones, cardiac parameters, and early behavior. Developmental Psychology. 1993;26:407-420.
- Suomi SJ. Touch and the immune system in rhesus monkeys. In Touch in Early Development, Field TM, ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.; (in press).
- Suomi, JS. "Experimental production of depressive behavior in young monkeys." Doctoral thesis. University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1971.
- Harlow, H.F., Harlow, M.K., Suomi, S.J. From thought to therapy: lessons from a primate laboratory. 538-549; American Scientist. vol. 59. no. 5. September–October; 1971.
- Capitanio, J.P. & Mason, W.A. "Cognitive style: problem solving by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) reared with living or inanimate substitute mothers", California Regional Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis. 1: J Comp Psychol. 2000 Jun;114(2):115-25.
- Blum, Deborah. The Monkey Wars. Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 96.
- "The Harry Harlow Project". The Age: Arts Review. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
Further reading 
- 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 Experiments
- Harlow et al. "Total social isolation in monkeys." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1965 July; 54(1): 90–97.
- Film footage of Harry Harlow - demonstrates his wire mother and cloth mother experiment
- "A History of Primate Experimentation at the University of Wisconsin, Madison".
- Blum, Deborah. Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection. Perseus Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-7382-0278-9
- Monkey love - article about Harlow's work in the Boston Globe