Comparing and Contrasting the Work of Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth on Understanding Attachment.

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Comparing and contrasting the work of Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth on understanding attachment. In 1950s psychology was mainly leaded by the behaviourists, their belief was that humans were motivated because of their primary needs like obtain hunger, thirst, avoid pain and satisfy sexual needs. Harry Harlow changed it all. He refused to accept that affection and love are less important and his paper “The nature of love” became bestseller among others. Harlow has said that ”Love is wondrous state, deep, tender, and rewarding“ (American Psychologist, p.673, 1958) and his experiments have been dedicated to prove that. A decade later Mary Ainsworth was still trying to prove this theory in practice. Today we can say that they both are mainly responsible for our understanding of attachment. Harlow and Ainsworth researched attachment from different angles and used different techniques; however there were lots of similarities as well. To contrast and compare their works, I will use and point out some of them.

The main difference between these two works is setting. Harry Harlow’s most famous experiment took place in laboratory and it involved young rhesus monkeys and their behaviour in relation with food and comfort by giving a choice between two different surrogate ”mothers”. Harlow noticed that baby monkeys were attached to the cloth pads or nappies that were on the floor in their cages. So Harlow made one mother from soft cloth, but she provided no food and another from wire, but she provided food from an attached bottle. Baby monkeys spent most of their time with their cloth mother even though she did not provide them with food. “Harlow’s findings appeared to confirm (…) that the infant- parent bond is based on innate tendencies rather than cupboard love” (Discovering psychology, p.206, 2010). Attachment was the same that human babies develop towards their special blanket, toy or pillow. “Harlow hypothesised that the tactile qualities of stimuli were more...
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