It was once thought that the act of feeding was the sole basis for the bond between mother and child. In 1959, that notion was debunked through a series of disturbing experiments with rhesus monkeys conducted by Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin. Harlow determined that tactile stimulation -- being tenderly touched and held -- created the critical bond between caregiver and infant.
In the studies, infant monkeys were separated from their mothers shortly after birth and raised by inatimate "surrogate mothers" made of either heavy wire or wood covered with soft terry cloth. In one experiment, both types of surrogates were present in the cage, but only one was equipped with a feeding nipple; some infants received nourishment from the wire mother while others nursed with the cloth mother.
The study revealed a number of startling results...
Even when the wire mother was the source of nourishment, the infant monkey spent a greater amount of time clinging to the cloth-covered mother surrogate, preferring "her" presence between feedings and in stressful situations. The wire mother was ignored except at feeding time.
Also, in the end, not even the terry cloth mother with a feeding bottle provided adequate nurturing. Despite regular feedings and a soft body for clinging to, the infants did not develop normally. At maturity, most were dysfunctional and anti-social, exhibiting excessive and misdirected aggression and/or engaging in "autistic-like" behavior such as grooming, self-clasping, social withdrawl and rocking. The reaction to normal sexual situations by both surrogate-raised male and female monkeys was unnatural. And, most of the female monkeys were unable to nurse their own young. They tended to be either indifferent or abusive toward their babies -- with some injuring and even killing their infants.
It is obvious that all primates, in particular humans, are subject to similar psycho-physical deprivations and trauma. The implications of this experiment are staggering. When pondering this, a direct and literal perspective can be applied as to mother and infant. Or, the perspective can be skewed metaphorically as in the way society fails to embrace some.
It is unclear what happened to this boy, this wiremnky. Who abandoned him, betrayed him? Who robbed him and what was he robbed of? Though his virtue is that he does not harm others, he continues to feel and think as an injured one. Witness his creations.
eristikös launched wiremnky online in January 1997