Saturday, June 30, 2007

William A. Mason's Ordinary Sensibilities

According to his UC Davis webpage, Professor Emeritus William A. (Bill) Mason has served as the President of the American Society of Primatologists (ASP) and of the International Primatological Society (ISP).

Presumably, his research is fairly representative of studies deemed significant and appropriate by these organizations.

According to Debra Blum’s Love at Goon Park, a biography of Harlow, Mason said of his teacher, that he...
kept this [the isolation rearing] going to the point where it was clear to many people that the work was really violating ordinary sensibilities, that anybody with respect for life or people would find this offensive. It's as if he sat down and said, “I'm only going to be around another ten years. What I'd like to do, then, is leave a great big mess behind.” If that was his aim, he did a perfect job. (Blum, Deborah. The Monkey Wars. Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 96.)
Mason worked at Harlow’s lab between 1954 and 1959.

Blum’s readers could reasonably be expected to come away from such a quotation with the belief that Mason is a scientist with “ordinary sensibilities” and “respect for life,” and that he would find studies like Harlow’s (and Suomi’s) "offensive." But his definitions of ordinary sensibilities and respect for life are twisted unrecognizable versions of what most people would think of when hearing those terms. (The fact that Blum left this impression with readers says something about her journalistic integrity.)

Mason is proud of his work. He lists 194 of his publications on his webpage. His publication list is filled with cruelty and suffering.

Harlow published his last papers in the mid 1970’s (and one in 1980, a year before his death.) His last papers included “Effects of maternal and peer separations on young monkeys,” “Depressive behavior in adult monkeys following separation from family environment,” and “Induced depression in monkeys,” among others. So, what was Mason up to around the time when anybody with ordinary sensibilities and a respect for life was beginning to find Harlow’s work offensive?

In the mid 1960s, Mason was hard at work emulating Harlow with studies like “Situation and stimulus effects on steroetyped behaviors of chimpanzees” and “Behavior of rhesus monkeys raised in isolation” both published in 1963. He published “Effects of rearing conditions on distress vocalizations in chimpanzees” in 1965.

In 1973, he published “Effects of artificial mothers and visual experience on adrenal responsiveness of infant monkeys.”

In 1975, he published “Effects of maternal mobility on the development of rocking and other behaviors in rhesus monkeys: a study with artificial mothers.” (Mason WA, Berkson G. Dev Psychobiol. 1975 May;8(3):197-211.) here’s the abstract:
Mechanically driven mobile artificial mothers effectively prevented the development of stereotyped body-rocking in rhesus monkeys. Monkeys were maternally separated at birth and assigned to 2 groups. Both groups were placed with surrogates, identical in construction except that for 1 group the surrogate was in motion 50% of the time from 0500 hours to 2400 hours each day, and for the other group the surrogate was stationary. All but 1 of the 10 monkeys raised with stationary artificial mothers developed rocking as an habitual pattern whereas none of the 9 monekys raised with mobile mothers did so. The data also suggest that emotional responsiveness was reduced in monkeys raised with mobile mothers, compared to monkeys raised with stationary devices.
Didn’t Mason know by this time that raising monkeys alone with only inanimate surrogate mothers wounded their psyches?

In 1978 he was still raising monkeys in deprived conditions:

“Competitive social strategies in groups of deprived and experienced rhesus monkeys.” (Dev Psychobiol. 1978 Jul;11(4):289-99.)
Behavior during competition for water was observed in 2 social groups of young rhesus monkeys (3 females, 3 males in each). Monkeys in one group were socially deprived and those in the other were socially experienced (raised with mother and agemates). Social status, based on dyadic recording of displacements at the water bottle, was predictive of a number of measures related to water consumption and social orientation in both groups, but this measure was less reliable and predictive for the experienced group than for the deprived groups, but this measure was less reliable and predictive for the experienced group than for the deprived group. A major reason for the comparatively low predictive value and reliability of status among experienced monkeys was their ability to influence the behavior of higher status members through responses directed to a 3rd party and other elaborate social strategies, many of which depended on responding to status relations between 2nd and 3rd parties. The fact that such strategies were only observed in the experienced group is a clear indication that the development of higher orders of social cognition is dependent on early social experience.
Here’s a real gem from 1979. Let’s test your own monkey psychology prediction skills before you read Mason’s summary. Consider this: Raise a monkey with only a dog or only an inanimate "surrogate" for between 18 and 30 months. Which monkey will be most aware of his or her surroundings? Which monkey will engage in self-directed behaviors more? (Self-directed behavior is jargon for things like self-biting, pulling out one’s hair, penis sucking, or any of many other bizarre signs of mental illness.)

“Contrasts in visual responsiveness and emotional arousal between rhesus monkeys raised with living and those raised with inanimate substitute mothers.” Wood BS, Mason WA, Kenney MD. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1979 Apr;93(2):368-77.
Rhesus monkeys were raised with dogs or inanimate surrogates in outdoor cages which provided them with complex, highly varied visual surroundings. Visual responsiveness to a variety of colored transparencies was investigated in three experiments, completed when the monkeys were between 18 and 30 mo old. Results indicated that the frequency and duration of looking at slides was significantly higher for dog-raised than for inanimate-surrogate-raised monkeys and that dog-raised monkeys were much more responsive to the novelty, complexity, ansal [sic] were obtained during the final experiment. Heart rate, vocalization, and changes in plasma cortisol were higher for monkeys raised with dogs. The frequency of most self-directed behaviors, however, was higher for monkeys raised with inanimate surrogates. Differences between rearing groups can only be the result of contrasts in attributes of the substitute mothers.
I wonder whether people with ordinary sensibilities and a respect for life would have been offended that Mason was conducting these experiments. Thirty months of isolation, just to see what happens doesn’t seem very different from much of Harlow’s work.

And what would a person with ordinary sensibilities do upon (yet more) unequivocal evidence that being raised alone, with no other living creature, screws up a monkey’s mind? Mason must have felt that the sensitive thing for a person like himself to do, a person with a respect for life, would be to leave monkeys in those woeful situations.

Formation and expression of filial attachment in rhesus monkeys raised with living and inanimate mother substitutes. Mason WA, Capitanio JP. (Dev Psychobiol. 1988 Jul;21(5):401-30.)
The formation and expression of filial attachment was investigated in rhesus monkeys raised with dogs or inanimate mother substitutes in a longitudinal study spanning the first 4 years of life. At 2 months monkeys were identified within each rearing group as strongly attached or weakly attached, as measured by proximity, contact and clinging to the mother substitute in the living cage and in a novel room, and by differences in levels of distress vocalization and heart rate when they were alone and in the presence of the substitute mother in a novel room. By 4 months, all monkeys were attached, and the strongly attached and weakly attached monkeys of the first age-period were no longer distinguishable on any measure. The attachment was specific to the substitute mother. It was not exclusive, however, inasmuch as similar responses were elicited by a stranger of the same type as the substitute mother, although the stranger was less effective. The attachment figure was also influential when it could be seen but not touched. Evidence of attachment to the substitute mothers persisted until the end of testing at 44 months. Comparison of rearing groups support the hypothesis that the principal effect of living and inanimate mother substitutes is on responsiveness, rather than on the attachment process per se.
It’s noteworthy that John P. Capitanio, Mason’s coauthor in the above paper, also has served as president of the American Society of Primatologists. He may be the subject of a future essay.

Here’s a totally whacked study:

“Social stress results in altered glucocorticoid regulation and shorter survival in simian acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” Capitanio JP, Mendoza SP, Lerche NW, Mason WA. (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Apr 14;95(8):4714-9.)
From early in the AIDS epidemic, psychosocial stressors have been proposed as contributors to the variation in disease course. To test this hypothesis, rhesus macaques were assigned to stable or unstable social conditions and were inoculated with the simian immunodeficiency virus. Animals in the unstable condition displayed more agonism and less affiliation, shorter survival, and lower basal concentrations of plasma cortisol compared with stable animals. Early after inoculation, but before the emergence of group differences in cortisol levels, animals receiving social threats had higher concentrations of simian immunodeficiency virus RNA in plasma, and those engaging in affiliation had lower concentrations. The results indicate that social factors can have a significant impact on the course of immunodeficiency disease. Socially induced changes in pituitary-adrenal hormones may be one mechanism mediating this relationship.
And another; this builds on the cruelty from the 1988 paper above:

Cognitive style: problem solving by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) reared with living or inanimate substitute mothers. Capitanio JP, Mason WA. (J Comp Psychol. 2000 Jun;114(2):115-25.)

Capitanio and Mason explain their General Method:

The subjects were 6 male and 6 femail rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) whose rearing histories have been detailed elsewhere (Capitanio, 1984; Mason & Capitanio 1988). Briefly, each monkey was separated from its mother within 24 hr of birth and was reared individually for 14-18 days with a cloth-covered heating pad, after which the infant was introduced to a “substitute mother,” either an adult mongrel dog or a plastic hobbyhorse wrapped with acrylic fur around its midsection. Continuous cohabitation with the substitute mother (hereinafter referred to as the kennel mate [KM]) began at a mean age of 41 days. All monkeys lived individually with their KMs in outdoor kennels measuring 3.0 m X 1.2 m X 1.8 m and containing a metal hutch (71 cm x 86 cm x 69 cm) equipped with a wood floor and thermostatically controlled heat lamp. [Was the dog a Chihuahua?] To provide all monkeys with a varied and stimulating environment, each animal was exposed (with is KM present) for a total of 143 hr, between the ages of 3 and 15 months, to five complex outdoor enclosures, each containing a variety of puzzles, toys, and climbing devices. Social testing (involving a total of 167 hr per monkey consisting of free conspecific interaction) began when the animals were 3.3 years old and lasted until they were 5.7 years old. The monkeys were separated from their KMs at a mean age of 3.7 years and were housed individually from that time. Beginning at 4.8 years of age, the monkeys lived in outdoor aluminum cages measuring 74 cm x 74 cm x 86 cm. Four the four experiments reported here, the monkeys’ mean ages were 1.0, 3.1 6.8, and 7.1 years old respectively. (p 116.)
Can you imagine the conversations Capitanio and Mason must have had?
“How interesting that a monkey raised with a dog is less screwed up than a monkey raised with a plastic hobby horse.”

“Yes, we really are ASP president material. Our measurements are so exact. This is critical research.”

“That Harlow was one messed up character! Glad we’re not like him.”
What total dicks.

Here’s some more important work by these prestigious primatologists:

“Increased social fear and decreased fear of objects in monkeys with neonatal amygdala lesions.” Prather MD, Lavenex P, Mauldin-Jourdain ML, Mason WA, Capitanio JP, Mendoza SP, Amaral DG. (Neuroscience. 2001;106(4):653-8.)
The amygdala has been implicated in the mediation of emotional and species-specific social behavior. Humans with bilateral amygdala damage are impaired in judging negative emotion in facial expressions and making accurate judgements of trustworthiness. Amygdala dysfunction has also been implicated in human disorders ranging from social anxiety to depression to autism. We produced selective amygdala lesions in 2-week-old macaque monkeys who were returned to their mothers for rearing. At 6-8 months of age, the lesioned animals demonstrated less fear of novel objects such as rubber snakes than age-matched controls. However, they displayed substantially more fear behavior than controls during dyadic social interactions. These results suggest that neonatal amygdala lesions dissociate a system that mediates social fear from one that mediates fear of inanimate objects. Furthermore, much of the age-appropriate repertoire of social behavior was present in amygdala-lesioned infants indicating that these lesions do not produce autistic-like behavior in monkeys. Finally, amygdala lesions early in development have different effects on social behavior than lesions produced in adulthood.
The paper below is available in full. (Josef Mengele, a person with similar ordinary sensibilities and respect for life would certainly approved.)

The development of mother-infant interactions after neonatal amygdala lesions in rhesus monkeys.” Bauman MD, Lavenex P, Mason WA, Capitanio JP, Amaral DG. J Neurosci. 2004 Jan 21;24(3):711-21.

And here’s a very recent bit of Mason’s common sensibility and respect for life:

The expression of social dominance following neonatal lesions of the amygdala or hippocampus in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Bauman MD, Toscano JE, Mason WA, Lavenex P, Amaral DG. (Behav Neurosci. 2006 Aug;120(4):749-60.)
As part of ongoing studies on the neurobiology of socioemotional behavior in the nonhuman primate, the authors examined the social dominance hierarchy of juvenile macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that received bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala or the hippocampus or a sham surgical procedure at 2 weeks of age. The subjects were reared by their mothers with daily access to large social groups. Behavioral observations were conducted while monkeys were given access to a limited preferred food. This testing situation reliably elicited numerous species-typical dominance behaviors. All subjects were motivated to retrieve the food when tested individually. However, when a group of 6 monkeys was given access to only 1 container of the preferred food, the amygdala-lesioned monkeys had less frequent initial access to the food, had longer latencies to obtain the food, and demonstrated fewer species-typical aggressive behaviors. They were thus lower ranking on all indices of social dominance. The authors discuss these findings in relation to the role of the amygdala in the establishment of social rank and the regulation of aggression and fear.
Traditionally, the American Society of Primatologists has been led by mentally ill sadists if their research publications are any judge. Sadly and disappointingly, many of the ASP members are people with common sensibilities and a respect for life. But these members remain quiet about the cruel and meaningless experiments conducted by their fellow members and the ASP leadership. Primatology must attract not only sadists but cowards as well.

1 comment:

David Weyeneth said...

A social worker acquaintance reported to me that she had seen a film depiction of Anna Freud in her post-WWII child care facility showing a German Shepherd dog kept with six war orphans in a play pen. Freud was said to use dog companion nannies to prevent the death of the infants placed in her care. Deborah Blum, in Love at Goon Park, p.189-191 cites Bill Mason of UC Davis as having used dogs to rear orphan monkeys. I would like any citations on Anna Freud using dogs to rear human orphans and comments on Blum's opinion (p. 59) that Bowlby's attachment parenting was unnecessary. David Weyeneth