Effects of Isolation in Rhesus Monkeys



Harlow's rhesus monkeys became withdrawn and disturbed after months in isolation.






















Here I have investigated the effects of isolation on the human psyche.  These photos demonstrate the psychological effects that were found in the rhesus monkeys. (refer to Comments to learn more about Harry Harlow’s isolation experiment.)



“They became permanently withdrawn, and they lived as outcasts – regularly set upon, as if inviting abuse.”

: “Yet they were also profoundly disturbed, given to staring blankly and rocking in place for long periods, circling their cages repetitively, and mutilating themselves.”

Young monkeys kept in isolation for long periods of time exhibited tendencies toward self-mutilation and were found to be incapable of developing relationships with other monkeys once removed from isolation. These characteristics are also found in solitary confinement prisoners once released after extended periods in isolation.



  1. ablument Said:

    Harry Harlow’s studies of rhesus monkey’s provide a great examples of the psychological effects of isolation. Baby monkeys were placed in isolation immediately after birth, for varying amounts of time. They were kept in a metal contraption referred to by Harlow as the “Pit of Despair.” It was found that those monkeys that were left in isolation for under 6 months developed behaviors including blank staring, rocking, self-mutilation. One monkey left in isolation for 3 months died from depression related anorexia, five days after being removed from isolation. When Harlow tried to reintroduce monkeys left in isolation for 6 months to a general population of normal monkeys, he found that the monkeys grown in isolation were left in a socially inept state. Most could not mate but when Harlow forced them to, they showed extremely poor maternal instincts. Some mothers physically injured their offspring while most simply ignored them. When reintroduced to the normally-reared monkey population after only a short period of time in isolation, most monkeys made almost a complete psychological recovery. These experiments performed on rhesus monkeys were considered to be an accurate animal model for human depression.

  2. ablument Said:

    Learn more!
    Gawande, Atul. Hellhole. March 30, 2009. The New Yorker.

    Haney, Craig. Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement. January 2003. Crime Delinquency. Vol. 49. No. 124-156.

    Harlow, H. F., et al. Total social isolation in monkeys. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1965 July; 54(1): 90-97.

    Shaylor, Cassandra. Four Years in Solitary Confinement. April 9, 2000. SFGate.com



    monkey photos from :

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