LOVE AT GOON PARK: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

Deborah Blum, Author . Perseus $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0278-5

In this surprisingly compelling book, Blum (The Monkey Wars) reveals that many of the child-rearing truths we now take for granted—infants need parental attention; physical contact is related to emotional growth and cognitive development—were shunned by the psychological community of the 1950s. As Blum shows, Freudian and behavioral psychologists argued for decades that babies were drawn to their mothers only as a source of milk, motivated by the instinctual drive for sustenance, and that children could be harmed by too much affection. Harry Harlow's experiments, Blum finds in this deeply sympathetic investigation of his life and work, changed all this, conclusively demonstrating that infant monkeys bond emotionally with a specific "mother"—a dummy figure made of cloth—even if it is not a source of food. The experiments also revealed, astonishingly enough, that puzzle-solving monkeys who were not rewarded with food actually performed better than those who were rewarded, leading him to conclude that baby primates—and by extension, baby children—are motivated by a range of emotions, including curiosity, affection and wonder. Born Harry Israel, Harlow changed his name because 1930s anti-Semitism prevented him from getting a research position (though he wasn't Jewish). His first marriage ended because his wife, who had given up her own promising scientific career, felt he was spending too much time at the lab and not enough at home with the kids. Monkey Wars fans who have been waiting for a follow-up will find this book irresistible. (Nov.)

Forecasts:With war on everyone's mind, a book that dwells carefully and passionately on the need for affection may make for a sleeper hit. The Monkey Wars was critically acclaimed; look for this lower profile title to be well reviewed on the strength of the earlier book, and for similar enthusiasm to result.

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-425-19405-8
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