Can Single Processes Explain Effects of Postnatal Influences on Primate Development?

  • Gene P. Sackett
Part of the Topics in Developmental Psychobiology book series (TDP)


The modern study of behavioral development grew under the Freudian principle that early postnatal experience shapes adult human behavior. Later experience, although important for acquiring specific skills, abilities, and knowledge, does not have the primacy and permanence of early influences. This view was strengthened by Spitz (1945), who showed that human infants reared in institutions under deprived social and sensory conditions had markedly abnormal patterns of early development. Studies by Bowlby (1973) also suggested that infancy experience had a major influence on later attachment and social behavior. The pioneering experimental studies of Harry and Margaret Harlow (1965) on rhesus monkeys raised in total social isolation confirmed the results from these human studies. Rhesus isolates developed species-atypical individual and social behaviors which persisted into adulthood. With this nonhuman primate evidence, the theory that early experience is critical for species-typical primate behavior became a textbook fact.


Rhesus Monkey Macaque Monkey Isolation Effect Primate Development Male Fetus 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gene P. Sackett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Regional Primate Research Center, and Child Development and Mental Retardation CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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