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Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection [Paperback]

Deborah Blum
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 5 2011
In the early twentieth century, affection between parents and their children was discouraged-psychologists thought it would create needy kids, and doctors thought it would spread infectious disease. It took a revolution in psychology to overturn these beliefs and prove that touch ensures emotional and intellectual health. In Love at Goon Park, Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum charts this profound cultural shift by tracing the story of Harry Harlow-the man who studied neglect and its life-altering consequences on primates in his lab. The biography of both a man and an idea, Love at Goon Park ultimately invites us to examine ourselves and the way we love.

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Not too long ago, the predominant paradigm maintained that infants should be denied love or even physical contact lest they be threatened with infectious microbes. Countering the authority of reigning behavioral psychologists like B.F. Skinner and John Watson, the brilliant renegade Harry Harlow attempted to find the essence of mother love and its influence on child development. Rather than work with rats, Harlow studied primate affection using his classical inanimate surrogate mothers. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Blum (The Monkey Wars) rivetingly recounts Harlow's work while examining the man himself. Harlow argued that mother-child bonding was crucial for normal development, and his experiments with monkeys showed that social organisms cannot survive isolation. But as Blum reveals, Harlow was an enigma, brilliant but distant from his own children, and his work raised ethical and controversial dilemmas concerning the research treatment of animals. Harlow had a major impact on psychologists like Abraham Maslow (who happened to be his graduate student), yet he is little known today outside the scientific community. Blum's excellent biography, the first major new work devoted to him, should change that. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Rita Hoots, Woodland Coll. Lib., CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Carol Ann Rowland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an easy, enjoyable read. Not only does it outline important developments in the history of psychology, attachment theory, and the behaviouralists, it gives a very clear view of the importance of maternal (and parental) attention and nurturance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review update June 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book has a whole new meaning now that the debate over stem cell research has reached the forefront. Harry Harlow's research cause a plethora of laws to be passed limiting researchers to more ethical, humane treatment of animal subjects. Now, homo sapien babies are the target of the debate over individual rights and the greater good of society. We've saved the rats and the monkeys from murderous research, but the future doesn't look so good for humans. I know the argument: Like African-Americans, women, and Jews of the past, "not quite human enough" for human rights is the classification unborn children receive today. At least other animals are somewhat safe from our selfish desire to live in perfect health forever. Deborah Blum, thank you. You are one of the few who understands Harlow's work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Important lessons that must not be forgotten April 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
A very well written book, telling the story of a man, and of the revolution he caused in psychology. There is a lot of irony in this story. If Harry Harlow's experiments strike us as intolerably cruel now, that is due in large part because we know the results of those experiments.
There are important lessons here for present and future parents, researchers, and activists. And even if you don't fall into one of those categories, it's still a fascinating story that is well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Perspective Feb. 6 2003
Format:Hardcover
Like many others, I never forgot the pictures in my intro psych text of Hary Harlow's baby monkies and their surrogate mothers. Blum's very readable book reviews Harlow's work and places it in the historical context of psychology and the social perspectives the middle part of the 1900's.
Although the descriptions of Harlow's experiments were well written, the last chapters of Blum's book were most interesting to me. In these chapters, Blum describes the feminist and animal rights back lash against Harlow's work. One can't help be stunned by the irony that Harlow's work, which ultimently championed the importance of mothers' relationships to their children and the deep intelligence of monkies (and their similarities to human beings), would be vilified by these groups.
Blum's book is, thus, not only about one of the most innovative psychologists of the past century, but also a great perspective of how we change our thinking about what we are as a species. It is far more than a book about the man who took baby monkies away from their mothers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down... Jan. 18 2003
Format:Hardcover
For a biography / psychology book, I was pleasantly surprised by just how readible this book is (once you start reading, plan on being glued to it until you're finished). A fascinating slice of history, it's useful and insightful reading if you're a parent (or planning on becoming one), or if you're interested in the roots of the controversy over medical research with primates, or if you're just looking for tips on what makes humans tick. Well worth the read if only to put B. F. Skinner's experiments and theories into a frightening human perspective.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read Dec 20 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Extremely well written and interesting book on a subject many might think dry and tedious. The lessons learned about love and affection are eye opening and a must read for ANY and All parents.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Will someone please turn this into a movie? Dec 4 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is a study of love and affection and turns some traditional scientific research on it's ear. Perhaps more ironic is the fact that while Harry was studying love and parenting at the lab, his own wife and children felt deprived by his absense which led to their divorce. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars All teachers should read this, too.
I am one of the millions of people in the USA with an education degree who are not teachers. Behavior theory is the rule of the school today. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2003 by "hhm622"
5.0 out of 5 stars This book provided reassurance for me as a mother
Love at Goon Park is about Harry Harlow, a scientist who uses monkeys to prove that feeling loved is very, very important to children from the minute they are born and to us all. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2002 by Alma Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars This book provided reassurance for me as a mother
Love at Goon Park is about Harry Harlow, a scientist who uses monkeys to prove that feeling loved is very, very important to children from the minute they are born and to us all. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2002 by Alma Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look at a Psychology Pioneer
This book provides a fascinating portrait of Harry Harlow, a psychology pioneer.The book also brings to life the theories of Harlow, who argued for the value of parental love and... Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking at love
"Love At Goon Park" is a fascinating look at a man and his work. Deborah Blum provides the reader with an extensive and sobering background before exploring Harry... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2002 by Edith L. McLaurin
5.0 out of 5 stars Science of love and the darker love for science
Harry Harlow was an "envelope pusher" who,increasingly driven to find answers to the most fundamental questions about why we both need and give love, transformed himself into a... Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2002 by "rrr338"
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