Is a warm and comforting feeling more important than food for survival? Does the sense of touch override the survival extinct?
A famous American study carried out by Harlow showed that for Rhesus monkeys, warmth and comfort was in fact of primary importance. During the research, the infant monkeys – that were born and raised in a laboratory – were able to choose between two surrogate mothers. They could choose a false mother monkey made from wire mesh, but contained an artificial nipple which provided the infants with milk. The other option was a mother monkey made from terry-cloth and warmed by a light bulb which lit behind it. The infant monkeys continuously chose the one made with terry-cloth and only briefly fed from the milk-supplying monkey when in desperate need of nutrients before quickly returning to hold the warm mother.
Moreover, this study proved how touch is vital for social behaviour, health and the development of personality. This is because these monkeys (raised in a laboratory) were not able to co-exist healthily and naturally with other monkeys their age, as well as being unable to show maternal instinct with their own young.
When raised by a family who has shown limited tenderness, warmth and physical contact, one may fail to develop the sense of being valued and thus develop an insufficient amount of self-esteem. This in turn can make it difficult for one to emotionally express themselves and sustain an intimate relationship with a partner.
Nonetheless, living in England – more specifically London, it may be more difficult to connect with the sense of touch. In a study regarding the amount of physical interactions in different countries, it was shown that in a café in Puerto Rico, there were 180 interactions, while in London there were 0.
Could simply having more warm connections with each other, improve our sense of security, reassurance and self-confidence?
by Megan Bantleman