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How can we tell if an animal is emotionally attached to someone or something?

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Introduction

How can we tell if an animal is emotionally attached to someone or something? "Attachment refers to an exclusive, relatively enduring affective bond that one individual (person or animal) forms between himself and another specific individual" (Cairns, RB, 1979). This essay will address the question; 'how can we tell if an animal is emotionally attached to someone or something'. Introducing the terms and concepts involved within attachment will develop the answer initially. The essay will explore methods used to measure and test attachment such as separation and preference tests with reference to studies such as Harlow 1958, Hess 1958, Topal 1998 and Jensen & Tolman (1962 cited in Cairns 1979). The essay will consider the attachments made between an animal and it's young, it's mate and it's owner. The essay will be written from the point of view that certain animals do form strong emotional attachments; this stance is taken after careful consideration and research into both sides of the argument. Research such as that recording the behaviour of a young chimpanzee following the death of his mother1, reports of geese pining the loss of their mate and the fact that the hormone oxytocin, found to be associated with maternal bonding and sexual activity in human beings, is also found to affect the attachments made by other animals are responsible for the particular viewpoint. ...read more.

Middle

The surrogate mother monkeys were made of a wire frame with a wooden head, one was left bare the other was covered in terry cloth. The results indicated that the animals spent more time climbing on and clinging to the cloth mother compared to the wire mother, even if the wire mother provided the infant monkey with milk, rejecting the cupboard love theory. Harlow decided that the amount of time cuddling the cloth mother wasn't a conclusive indicator of emotional attachment. He devised an experiment to elicit fear into the monkey and measured its response. He anticipated that if the monkey were truly attached to the cloth mother her presence would comfort the infant in an unfamiliar situation and would provide a safe base for the infant to explore from. His theory was right, a mechanical bear was placed in the infant's cage, the infant initially ran to the cloth mother and used her for comfort and reassurance, within minutes the infant appeared less frightened and even approached the mechanical bear. In another test for attachment he placed the infant in a room larger than the one it was used to with a range of unfamiliar objects. If the cloth mother wasn't there the monkey would demonstrate extreme stress, for example flinging itself onto the floor and screaming. ...read more.

Conclusion

It was found that these monkeys brought up in isolation with only a surrogate mother were unable to perform adequately as part of a group or raise their own offspring. Also the dogs in the strange situation didn't demonstrate any extreme reactions so it may have been difficult for the observers to record any significant behaviour. If comparing the dog's reactions in Topal's study to the reaction of the lamb in Jenson & Tolman's study one could be forgiven for concluding that the dogs didn't display anything that could classify them as having a strong emotional attachment to their owner, even though it is widely accepted that dogs do form strong attachments to their owners. The essay set out to answer the question 'how can we tell if an animal is emotionally attached to someone or something?' This was done by introducing the concept of attachment, exploring studies that measured attachment and evaluating these studies in terms of the methods used and the conclusions that can be drawn from the results. The essay introduced ways in which attachment could be measured effectively by the evaluation of other significant studies in this area. So, in answer to the question, we can tell if an animal is emotionally attached to something or someone by separating it from the attachment figure and measuring the response. This of course leads to problems of distinction, which was addressed concerning Topal's study. Preference tests and using the attachment figure as a safe base are also useful indicators of attachment. ...read more.

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