Harry Harlow, an American psychologist, was well known for his maternal-separation and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys. The experiments showed the importance of loving companions on social and cognitive development. He took the monkeys and exposed them to two fake mothers. One with a wire casing which had the bottle and nourishment, and the other was made of foam rubber with terry cloth on the outside that had been heated by a light bulb. Observing the monkeys, he found that they used the wired "mother" to feed on the bottle but always otherwise gravitated to the more comfortable, terry cloth "mother." Moreover, when exposed to scary stimuli, the monkeys would always run to the more motherly model even though it did not provide nourishment. Harlow called this new phenomenon contact comfort. He defined it as the positive emotions afforded by touch. Following Harlow's research, we have begun to understand why enjoy simple contact and reassuring touches from others. Furthermore, Tiffany Field also showed years later that gentle massages help premature babies gain weight, sleep better, and form closer bonds with their parents than when just exposed to attention. This brings me to an interesting question. Do simple touches and contact with others make us, as adults, more healthy and provide additional benefits such as more restful sleep?
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