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

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  570 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Basic Books (first published October 2nd 2002)
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Feb 23, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It's hard to believe that less than 100 years ago, psychologists believed that affection between parents and children was unnecessary, and recommended that the best way to raise children was to touch them and coddle them as little as possible. The behaviorist B.F. Skinner actually built a box to raise his young daughter Debbie in, with a window and filtered air and regular times when she could emerge to play or eat meals.

Harry Harlow, a primate researcher at the University of Wisconsin, though h
Sep 11, 2007 AB rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nonfiction, author-f
This is probably the first or second most important book I've ever read. One of the very, very few books that I can say not only changed my life, but did so in such a way that I can provide evidence to back up my statement. I started studying psychology because of it, but that's just for starters.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I read this in April 2010. If you ever took psychology or sociology, you probably learned about the experiment with the baby monkeys and the cloth mothers and the wire mothers. This is a popular scientific biography of the scientist who conceived that experiment.

I'd call it a must-read for anyone who works with children (or non-human primates), or who is a people-watcher. Also for anyone who has even mild curiosity about psychology as a science. If you ever took a basic science class, this revie
I read this for a psychology class and found it absolutely fascinating. I liked the detailed description from Publisher's Weekly, so here it is:

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
Dec 02, 2016 Arimo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ei-fiktio
An excellent and interesting book about psychologist Harry Harlow and his monkey research. Thorough research shines through all over the book, and Love at Goon Park is full of interesting anecdotes and minor details that makes the subjects come to life.

I'm giving the book very strong four stars. The biggest (but still minor) issue I had with the book was the length of the chapters and paragraphs. Sometimes, if I had trouble concentrating, I had to read some paragraphs multiple times to understan
Jul 07, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
The nature of love is about paying attention to the people who matter, about still giving when you are too tired to give.
May 02, 2014 Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Top read. Lovely mix of narrative and psychology practice.
Cathy Faye
Having a weird love-hate relationship with this book...
20th century thought on animals was that animals were simple, brainless even. Exposed to a stimulus, the animal would react. They were no more than response machines, trying to satisfy their basic needs of food and shelter. This thinking carried over to scientific opinion on children. Children had no emotional or intellectual capacities. And in fact, excessive parental affection could not only increase the chance of infecting your child with germs, but also interfere with the child's normal deve ...more
Victoria Dimitrakopoulos
Couldn't put it down. Am leading through it for the fourth time now. Endless fountain of knowledge and understanding on Xxth century psychology
Love at Goon Park was very interesting while also very frustrating and incredibly flawed. In the preface, Deborah Blum discusses writing an earlier book (The Monkey Wars) that angered people who knew Harry Harlow so much that many of them were wary of ever speaking to her again. She then launches into an entire book on Harry Harlow, much of it quite positive or at least minimally critical of his experiments and of him as a person. It's not till the epilogue that she shares any of the criticisms ...more
K. Bird Lincoln
Jun 27, 2016 K. Bird Lincoln rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I read the last chapter of this book, snuggled up against my 12 year old daughter, I started telling her how lucky she was to be the younger of my two daughters. I wrestled with the prevailing United States wisdom of the day about when babies should sleep apart as well as when it was weird to not be potty trained.

Luckily, I had the advantage of living when my girls were young in Tokyo, where attachment parenting and sleeping together in family units was the norm, and so when girl1 cried her e
Sean Kottke
Jan 21, 2014 Sean Kottke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I added to my Amazon Wish List back at the dawn of the 21st century after hearing Blum interviewed on NPR, and while it took me a while to finally get to it, the payoff was definitely worth the wait. So many of my professional and personal interests converge in the story of Harry Harlow: the history of psychology, the science of child development, emotional learning theory, research methods and ethics, monkeys. Spanning the bulk of the 20th century, Blum's biography is not ...more
Elizabeth Desole
Because of the time period covered, this biography manages to cover most of the 20th century "professionals" approach to child-rearing. At the beginning of the century, as the field of psychology was struggling to be recognized as a "real science", the experts were trying to reduce baby's emotions to pure conditioned response (in other words, only the milk mattered). Then came the backlash, pioneered by this entertaining and sometimes infuriating man ( and his wives) Henry (Israel) Harlow.
Jan 16, 2011 Kimberley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love at GOON Park is particularly satisfying because the content is fascinating and the writing is so good! It's science that reads like a novel. The book is about Harry Harlow and his monkey experiments on mother love. The name GOON Park comes from the address of Harry's lab at 600 N Park, which, I suppose looked a little like "GOON." Harry's experiments completely changed our view of the needs of babies for relationship, community and softness. Besides his well-known experiments with "wire mot ...more
May 05, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

This book is a must read for anyone who plans to be a parent, for anyone who has had a parent, and for anyone who has been a parent. It is well written, objective, and brutally honest in its examination of the life of Harry Harlow, the importance of the work he completed, and the insanity of society before, during, and after his time. It is not an easy read, some of the work he did was nothing short of horrific. One wonders what kind of monster could have exposed baby monkeys to the extreme sit
Sep 16, 2011 Luke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate Blum's book and thorough research, but I just found the story and the content not too interesting. In part, I think this was largely due to the fact I majored in human development and had a feeling that the history of the discipline of PSYCH was as it was in the book. Additionally, a lot of the revelations were things I already had a good sense of. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great reminder of where we were at and where we are going, and worthwhile to consider the research, the ...more
C.R. Elliott
Jun 08, 2011 C.R. Elliott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, science enthusiasts
Shelves: favorites, science
Having read about Harlow in several classes as well as Blum's book Money Wars I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It turned out to be an instant favorite. Harlow is so infamous for the torture aspect of his studies that I foolishly took it at face value that there wasn't much beyond that in terms of the scope of the studies. The abrasiveness of his personality toward the end certainly exaggerated the horror of his studies. The book doesn't try to polish him up but it certainly reveals t ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Karendale2 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Describes the profound research that Harry Harlow conducted at the University of Wisconsin. Harry Harlow's research is on separation and loss as it relates to humans, mothers and their babies, although the research is conducted on monkeys. He makes up dummy mother monkeys which the babies gravitate to when they lose their mother. This is a somewhat "cruel" experiment with profound results. This biography talks also about the relationship of the research to Freud and B.F. Skinner. Notably, Abraha ...more
Jan 02, 2011 Mairi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harry Harlow was the driving force behind the now infamous wire mother/cloth mother monkey experiments but there was so much more to his research, to the context. Reading an in-depth treatment of it was fascinating. Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook and one of my favorite finds from last year, disappointed me with the pacing but never the material or the presentation. She went into the book ambivalent at best about Harry Harlow, addressed her own bias and ended up giving him what s ...more
Mar 30, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Amanda by: Mrs. Tinsley
This book was so amazing!
I had known about Harry Harlow's experiments with the Rhesus monkeys and the surrogate mothers-one was only wire and had a bottle and one was terrycloth, but lacked a bottle, but I did not realize the extent of his research. He did so many different experiments with the monkeys.
It broke my heart to read about some of his experiments. He destroyed those monkeys and made them depressed, but then he tried different ways of using other monkeys to help them heal emotionally
Dec 01, 2011 Patiki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is ok. Interesting to read about the context of famous social psychology experiments. You would probably find it more interesting if you have a background in psychology. I was a psych major, and enjoyed the book for the reason just stated, but the motive behind why I borrowed the book in the first place was because I wanted to know what on earth made a person like Harry Harlow tick, and the book didn't answer that question. So, read it for a general history and context of 1950s and 1960 ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Corie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Blum's writing is wonderful. Any writer who can turn the raw materials of academia and research psychology into the stuff that makes you read into the wee hours is one fine writer. She illuminates the history of this narrow, but oh-so-critical spectrum of psychological research without defending the actors or getting bogged down in personality assassination. She's a very talented journalist. If you have any interest in child development or the development of human attachment, you will ...more
Mar 14, 2009 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent write-up of a sensitive and difficult topic beginning with the cultural environment that existed when Harlow began his studies. She does a good job of covering Harlow throughout his life, his research as it developed, his students, the development of societal awareness and cultural changes regarding needs of infants, children and women, and ends with a discussion of ongoing research based on Harlow's work and of ethical considerations. This is a fascinating read, one that I think a goo ...more
Oct 13, 2014 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Great book that described in detail Harlow's experiments and the controversy they were trying to overcome. I found it especially interesting that Blum originally wrote an animal rights article against Harlow, which resulted in many contacts who wanted to speak to her solely to correct her misconceptions. Some of this critique is given in the final chapter of the book with Harlow's rebuttals but the majority focuses on his attempt to overcome reliance on rats as subjects and to see relationships ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book about the animal studies and original researcher who discovered that primates need affection in order to survive. It is a biography of Harry Harlow, and therefore there was a little too much about his personal life that I didn't find as interesting, but still it is worth reading. What was previously thought about infants and their needs was so contrary to what we think today - its hard to believe.
Ted Smith
Mar 05, 2012 Ted Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous book about a psychologist who studied affection and neglect. This is a very well-written that describes experiments that transformed the way that behaviorists think about human relationships in an age when affection between parents and children was discouraged. Not only does the book describe Harry Harlow's experiments but also his own relationship difficulties, even while he was preaching the importance of love and bonding.
Deb Oestreicher
This is a fascinating book, both the biography of a particular scientist, Harry Harlow--he of the notorious experiments in which infant monkeys were paired with inanimate "mothers" made of cloth or wire--and a history of how we as a culture have understood the relationship between love and child development. The best kind of science book, full of compelling writing, sharply drawn characters, and provocative, endlessly resonant ideas. Highly recommended.
Jul 21, 2011 Erik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not sure how I came across this book, but I'm glad I was able to read it. Like other reviews have noted, it is hard to believe that 60 years ago science thought touching your newborn or showing affection could detrimentally effect them. How that changed, and the experiments that brought about the change, make up the bulk of the book and raise some thorny ethical issues.
Manuel B
Animal experimentation is bad. Harry Harlow did a magnificent thing to destroy the belief of the past that children should not be held or showered with affection when they're infant and young. The experiments were cruel but it saved the psyche of many children and forced psychologist to accept that a thing called love existed.
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Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author.

As a science writer for the Sacramento Bee, Blum (rhymes with gum) wrote a series of articles examining the professional, ethical, and emotional conflicts between scientists who use animals in their research and animal rights activists who oppose that research. Titled "The Monkey Wars", the series won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Beat R
More about Deborah Blum...

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“At Stone’s direction, Harry removed ovaries, blinded the female rats, and removed their olfactory bulbs. Sightless, hormone-deprived—it didn’t matter. The mother rats crawled determinedly toward the baby rats. They were slower, maybe, but the homing instinct was magnetic, needle to the north.” 0 likes
“At the end, in Harry’s handiwork, there’s nothing sentimental about love, no sunlit clouds and glory notes – it’s a substantial, earthbound connection, grounded in effort, kindness and decency. Learning to love, Harry liked to say, is really about learning to live. Perhaps everyday affection seems a small facet of love. Perhaps, though, it is the modest, steady responses that see us through day after day, that stretch into a life of close and loving relationships.” 0 likes
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