The study of love is not the usual science of study. However, Harry Harlow among other few psychologists have made this field important in studying human behavior. This study is based on foundations made by Jean Piaget on cognitive development and most importantly from infants (Kail& Cavanaugh 127). Research has shown that adult’s moral behaviors are influenced by their upbringing. Individuals start discovering love at infant stage. The kind of love they receive from their mothers determine their ability to reciprocate love in their future adult life. Harlow tried to put this in experimental form by using infant monkeys as the subjects.
Harry based his research on ten monkeys that were to be exposed to different kind of surrogate mothers. These surrogate mothers would be scientifically altered to provide different needs that monkeys and infants in general associate with. The first surrogate mother was built with smooth wood and covered in a sponge rubber and terrycloth. The chest like area was given warmth by a light bulb and a breast like structure that provided milk. The second surrogate was made of wire mesh that was built in the same structure as the wooden one and warmed as well. It also had a breasting device. The only notable difference was that the second did not provide contact comfort (Kail& Cavanaugh 128).
It appeared that the monkeys preferred the surrogate mother with contact comfort. Even when all monkeys were exposed to the both mothers and the wire mother was the only one with milk, they always went back to the wooden for comfort. Infants who feed from the wire mother digested their food poorly and often got sick with diarrhea. It was inevitable that before the basic needs, infants require comfort and that’s where the love was most drawn from.
In conclusion, Harry went against popular belief that care given through breastfeeding gave the connection between mother and child. Through his research, he purported that contact was of greatest importance to the psychological development of an infant (Kail& Cavanaugh 132). He concluded that though the effects of skin to skin contact may not be observable in the first few years of human development, maturity would give way to the true nature of psychological impacts in childhood. In addition, he encouraged parents to invest more time in the early years of a child as that determined the type of adult they would become.
Kail, Robert., & Cavanaugh, John. Human Development: A Life Span View. California: Nelson Education, 2010. Print