Re: Gender differences

Raphael Carter (
Sun, 30 Apr 1995 19:51:25 GMT

>Have Harry Harlow's studies been discredited? If memory of my
>primatology course 19 years ago is holding firm, he removed rhesus monkeys
>at birth to raise them in complete isolation -- the intent being to
>identify what might be instinct and what might be learned behavior.
>Female rhesus monkeys so raised had no idea what their babies were (both
>sexes had to be taught to have intercourse as well), and exhibited no
>mothering behavior towards them whatsoever.

>If this study is still considered valid, it argues strongly that your
>example is *not* clearly instinctive, but learned behavior.

This would only invalidate a really strong form of the idea that
maternal behavior is instinctive. After all, humans reared without
exposure to language don't develop any, but this doesn't mean that
some instinct isn't involved in learning language. Even in insects,
instincts aren't a fixed program, but rather, instincts drive certain
sorts of learning. We would expect human instincts to be at *least*
that flexible.

So, despite Harlow's work, it is still possible that, when a child is
exposed to a full range of social behaviors, instinct leads most girls
to learn different subsets of those behaviors.

Of course, possible!=true; there are plenty of other hypotheses.

See, on this subject, "Learning by Instinct" by James L. Gould and
Peter Marler, in the Jan. 87 _Scientific American_, and reprinted in
the Sci. Am. volume _The Emergence of Language: Development and

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