From humans to rhinoceroses, animals have been seen to show a positive relationship between themselves and their motherly figure. But when it is has been theorised as to why a positive relationship occurs, there have been many beliefs in the past showing different reasons. The tests conducted by Harry Harlow, Eckhard Hess and A. E. Fischer can be used as evidence to support one of the theories that newborns relate to a motherly figure because a mother is a source of warmth and comfort.
There are many methods in which a parent animal will feed their young. Some animals feed their young through hunting for food. Mammals are known to feed their young through milk and other animals will feed their young via regurgitation. The classic example for a mother feeding its young regurgitated food is birds. It has also been seen in primates and even the first ever humans have been known to do this. Regurgitation is useful as it transfers nutrients and enzymes to help digest food. Birds pass on gut bacteria and primates pass on saliva, both of these help digestion. When scientists began to examine how the parent, usually the mother, helped to feed their young, it lead to the idea that newborn animals share a relationship to their mother because of the food they provided. This was known as the “cupboard theory” or sometimes the “cupboard love theory.”
Harry Harlow was well known for his tests using young monkeys. There were three tests which he conducted that directly looked at how and why monkeys were dependent on their mothers. His first was to: separate baby monkeys at birth and have them feed off a cold, wire ‘mother’. Next to the wire mother would be another ‘mother’; this one was soft, pleasant to touch and made of cloth. The monkey had to feed off the wire mother to live, but spent the majority of its time around the cloth mother. From 17-18 hours a day around the cloth mother compared to the mere time of less than 1 hour around the wire mother. Harlow had predicted there would be some difference in time spent around each mother, but he was ‘unprepared’ for such a great variance. The second part of the test was that he scared the baby monkey, using a contraption with a fierce-looking appearance, moving mechanical parts and frightening noises. When encountering this contraption, the baby monkey immediately ran to his cloth mother. Not only this, but after having his cloth mother near-by, the monkey turned, attempting to intimidate the contraption which had originally frightened it.
Harlow’s second test also used the cloth and wire mothers. This time however, the baby monkey was placed into a small room with 6 objects. In the first trial, neither of the artificial mothers was in the room. The monkey was seen to be cautiously moving about the room, looking for whatever comfort he could find in the objects. Harlow noted that when in a foreign place with no parent around, the monkey’s reaction was like a human infant’s would be: filled with fear. The second trial had the same setup except for the fact that the room now also had the wire mother in it. The monkey, when placed in the room, made no attempt to find comfort in the wire mother. It had the same cautious attitude as it previously did, almost totally disregarding the wire mother. But in the third trial, the cloth mother was placed into the room (and the wire mother taken out). On entering the room this time, the monkey did not take care in the other objects in the room, it ran straight to the cloth mother. Once again, after being around the cloth mother it gained some confidence and was not worried to then explore the foreign room for itself.
The third test looked at the effects on the baby monkeys when they had a ‘rejecting’ mother which used pressurised air to push the monkeys away. Harlow had discovered that the monkeys who had rejecting mothers would attempt to cling tighter to them than the monkeys who…