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Learning Theory

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ATTACHMENT - an emotional tie between 2 people; a process that endures over time. Attachment is associated with certain behaviours, for example clinging which falls under the category of proximity-seeking behaviour. LEARNING THEORY - explanations of attachment, put forward by behaviourists, which state that attachment is learned, rather than due to inborn tendencies. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING This concept was introduced by Pavlov, who noticed dogs began to salivate at the sight of food. He managed to condition the dogs to salivate at the sound of a metronome, as they had associated that with being fed. This concept can be applied to attachment. Food (UCS) produces a sense of pleasure (UCR) ...read more.


Donard & Miller applied operant conditioning to the creation of an attachment. When an infant is hungry, thus uncomfortable, it creates a drive to reduce this discomfort. When they are fed, the drive is reduced and they gain a sense of pleasure. The food becomes a primary reinforcer (as it reinforces the behaviour that avoids discomfort) while the feeder is the secondary reinforcer (a pleasure in their own right) as they are also associated with avoiding discomfort. So, an attachment is formed by the infant seeking the person who can supply the reward. VALIDITY The learning theory is mainly based on studies with animals (non-human), so we can't generalise to humans, as we are influenced by high order thinking and emotions. ...read more.


WEAKNESSES The main weakness is that the LT suggests that food is the main component in forming a attachments. People do believe this, as fathers often feel relegated to a lesser position if their partner provides the food. However, Harlow's study on monkey completed disagreed with this. He created two wire monkeys (one with a food bottle attached and another covered in cloth) and according to the LT, they monkey should have become attached to the lactating mother. Instead, they became attached to the cloth mother, often clinging to her (a proximity seeking behaviour) when frightened. This study was conducted on animals but Schaffer and Emerson's study supports this. They observed 60 babies, from working homes in Glasgow, and found they formed the closest attachment to the person that interacted with them the most, not the person who fed them. ...read more.

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