The reassurance from the cuddling of a surrogate mother was important for the infant monkey’s needs. As long as the infants had a stable, constant object to have close contact with, they felt more secure and therefore more open to the world around them. Having the safe, huggable mother around, the monkey’s fear of unfamiliar surroundings was lessened.
Allowing the fear to be subsided as a result of having the mother, the monkey infants then had the courage to explore. The safe haven of the mother’s cuddle turns fear into curiosity, allowing the infant to explore the room and even “approach the object that a few minutes before had reduced it to abject terror” (Harlow, 2004). Without a cloth mother, the infant feels insecure and their fear never settles, forcing them to remain rocking to themselves in a corner.
This type of behavior in monkey can generalize to human infants. Harlow states that the monkey’s behavior was “reminiscent of the human infant’s attachment to its blankets, pillows…” (2004). Toddler’s security blankets serve as a type of comfort and support while the mom is away. A human child still suffers from “separation anxiety and reflects insecurity” when the mother is gone, much like the response of the monkeys when left alone in a room full of unfamiliar objects (Brannon and Lester, 2006). The reappearance of the mother spawns more playful interaction with the world around it. These behaviors correspond to how children need a comforting factor to guide them and to help them learn. A mother’s close proximity guides children to face fears, because of the simple fact that they provide support. With a little comfort hug from a surrogate mother, a monkey infant will bound away exploring. With a comforting touch from mom, a child will healthily learn to hold its head, sit up, and crawl. This type of social interaction is most important, though, because it provides the blocks infants need to build the strong social ability of attachment,...
Cited: Harlow, H. F. (2004) “Love in Infant Monkeys.” Introductory Psychology Recitation Reader. 3rd ed. Boston: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc, 2004. 157-167.
Lefton, Lester A., and Linda Brannon. Psychology. 9th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2006. 122.
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