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Comfort or Food? This Harlow Love Song Has the Answer

Harry Harlow conducted his famous experiments on maternal separation and social isolation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1950s and 1960s. Decades later, Brad Wray and his independent study students from Arundel High School in Maryland have set one of those experiments to music.

Harlow took baby monkeys from their mothers and placed them with two “surrogate” mothers: one made of wire that dispensed milk and one made of terry cloth that didn’t dispense milk. The song, set to the tune of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” tells how the baby monkeys had to make a choice.

As Wray and his students demonstrate in the video below, the monkeys almost always chose the terry cloth mother over the wire mother. They may gloss over some of the other scenarios Harlow used in his experiments, but we can forgive them because that monkey puppet is irresistibly cute.

Want more Harlow?

Check out this Psychology (Yesterday and) Today article Love According to Harry Harlow, which reflects upon a 1973 interview with Harlow.

The winners of the APS Halloween Costume Contest were also inspired by Harlow. Clinical psychology graduate students Katrina Poetzl and Amy Sanchez from Duke University submitted this photo called “Wire Mom, Cloth Mom.”

This is a photo of 1st Place winner: "Wire Mom, Cloth Mom" Clinical psychology graduate students from Duke University, Katrina Poetzl and Amy Sanchez.

This is a photo of 1st Place winner: “Wire Mom, Cloth Mom” Clinical psychology graduate students from Duke University, Katrina Poetzl and Amy Sanchez.

ResearchBlogging.org
Harlow, H. F. (1958). The Nature of Love American Psychologist, 13, 573-685

Full Lyrics: Harlow's Monkeys

I really, really need to make a decision

Between nourishment and a physical connection

So I’ll try them both out and see which one is best

When I was born, I was taken from my mother

Put into a room with two surrogate mothers

I don’t know what to do — go for contact, comfort, or food?

So I won’t hesitate no more, no more. It cannot wait. I’m yours…

Food isn’t the only important thing

I need to open up my arms and find contact, comfort

I really like food but it just can’t be

Contact and comfort is there for me

It’s our godforsaken right to have contact, comfort

So I won’t hesitate no more, no more

It cannot wait I’m sure

There’s not need to complicate

Our time is short

This is my fate I’m yours

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