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Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection Hardcover – October 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0738202785 ISBN-10: 0738202789

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738202789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738202785
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,029,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Deborah Blum has always considered herself a southerner, although she has no real Southern accent and was born in Illinois (Urbana, 1954). Still, her parents moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana when she was two, and to Athens, Georgia, when she was twelve. And she has always believed that the Southern culture of story-telling had a real influence on the way she uses narrative in writing about science.
After high school, Blum received a journalism degree from the University of Georgia in 1976, with a double minor in anthropology and political science. She worked for two newspapers in Georgia and one in Florida (St. Petersburg Times) before deciding to become a science writer and going to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. A University of Wisconsin fellow, she received her degree in 1982 and moved to California to work for McClatchy newspapers, first in Fresno and then in Sacramento. During her 13 years, at The Sacramento Bee, she won numerous awards for her work, culminating in the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for a series investigating ethical issues in primate research.
The series became her first book, The Monkey Wars (Oxford, 1994), which was named a Library Journal Best Sci-Tech book of the year. Three years later, she published Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women (Viking, 1997), which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her 2002 book, Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection, (Perseus Books) was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She followed that with Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (Penguin Press, 2006). Her latest book, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, will be published in February 2010.
Blum is also the co-editor of a widely used guide to science writing, A Field Guide for Science Writers (Oxford, 2006). She is currently the Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches science journalism, creative-non-fiction, magazine writing and investigative reporting. A past-president of the National Association of Science Writers, she currently serves as the North American board member to the World Federation of Science Journalists. She also sits on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and on the board of trustees for the Society for Society and the Public.

Customer Reviews

Instead she largely justifies his behavior as being "for the good of science."
Daniel Mackler
Even if you're thinking "Harry WHO?" you will, after completing this book, feel that everyone should know about his life and work.
Although the descriptions of Harlow's experiments were well written, the last chapters of Blum's book were most interesting to me.
Mike Kircher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Edith L. McLaurin on October 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"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 Harlow's research. Did you know that as recently as the 1950s, psychologists were trying to convince parents that too much cuddling and "love" were bad for their children? Harlow, with his revolutionary experiments on baby monkeys, was bucking the conventional wisdom of his time. He was trying to say that mother's love mattered, that touch mattered, that affection mattered. His peers didn't want to hear this, but Harlow's research finally forced the profession to listen.
Blum's writing is never dry, never boring. She writes with amazing flair and humanity. You'll feel that you are getting to know this person, Harry Harlow. Even more, you'll feel you are there in the lab with Harlow and his graduate students, waiting to see how the baby monkeys will react to the latest experiment. What will we learn? Will anyone listen? Blum cares, and you'll care too.
You can't help but feel for the monkeys when you read this book. And Blum doesn't gloss over the issue of abuse, especially mental, that was visited on our primate cousins in the name of science. "Goon Park" takes an unflinching look at Harry Harlow, warts and all. I think her treatment of all the issues was fair and balanced.
I highly recommend "Love At Goon Park." It's well-written, interesting and important.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "rrr338" on October 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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 strident and self-righteous researcher -- admired and hated by his colleagues. This book tells the story in a gripping manner, really putting the reader "inside the mind-set" of a researcher who, driven by his own sense of being unloved, developed a seeming manaic compulsion to dissect and analyze the nature of love. He did it in a way that both enthralled and infuriated others.

The primate research lab at the department of psychology of the University of Madison is the setting for this absorbing book. Here, we also learn of academic subterfuge and conspiracy, and the irony of psychologists behaving in a severely dysfunctional manner. The title refers to the address of the lab, which was 600 N. Park, but often looked like "Goon Park" when scrawled by hand on envelopes and memos. This is great science writing that is balanced, insightful, and manages to capture both the beauty and the ugliness of scientific research without taking a pious stance. Quite a neat trick, but Deborah Blum pulls it off and brings this overlooked episode of psychology research into the forefront of our understanding of how science is really practiced. Very readable, with fascinating insights throughout. Even if you're thinking "Harry WHO?" you will, after completing this book, feel that everyone should know about his life and work.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Rick Bogle on September 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Whether by design or naiveté, Blum's Love at Goon Park tells the story of Harry Harlow in such a way that readers with only a passing familiarity with Harlow will come away from the book with the impression that in spite of the clearly troubling nature of his experimental manipulations of baby monkeys, science and humanity - especially young human children - were well served. And readers will have the impression that such things are not allowed in today's laboratories: we have progressed ethically since the days of Harlow.

Blum accomplishes these goals in various ways. One the one hand she blindly (or carefully) omits some key points about Harlow's earliest work with monkeys. She gets it right when explaining that Harlow was surprised that monkeys are highly intelligent problem solvers who are adept at applying past knowledge to novel situations. Harlow felt and wrote that monkeys and humans have the same sort of minds. Blum does not mention the fact that Harlow, upon leaning of these seemingly profound implications, began damaging monkeys' brains and then testing their previous problem solving abilities. (See for instance, his 1950 publication in Science: "The effect of large cortical lesions on learned behavior in monkeys.") Blum also fails to mention the radiation studies Harlow conducted on monkeys. (See for instance, his 1956 publication in the Journal of Comparative Physiology and Psychology: "The effects of repeated doses of total-body x radiation on motivation and learning in rhesus monkeys.") Thus, readers do not understand Harlow's willingness to hurt animals prior to beginning his studies on attachment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter Marrier on 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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