Depression and Helplessness in Primates

  • Susan Mineka


“Five-year-old Merlin had been among the first victims of the polio epidemic. Though he had been one of our favorite youngsters, playful and impish, we were almost glad when he died, for by that time he had become a pathetic wreck…emaciated, lethargic, and morose.” Two years earlier Merlin’s mother had died and when first seen several months after her death “he looked thin…and his eyes seemed enormous, as though he had not slept for a long time.” Merlin was adopted by his older sister, and to a lesser extent by his brother, and they in large part took good care of him. Nonetheless, “gradually…Merlin became more emaciated, his eyes sank deeper into their sockets…He became increasingly lethargic and played less and less frequently with other youngsters”…There was also a “marked deterioration of Merlin’s social responses…When he was four years old, Merlin was far more submissive than other youngsters of that age…As Merlin entered his sixth year his behavior was becoming rapidly more abnormal. Sometimes he hung upside down like a bat…remaining suspended motionless for several minutes at a time.


Rhesus Monkey Attributional Style Inescapable Shock Uncontrollable Event Young Monkey 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Mineka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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