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Outline and Evaluate Learning Theory of Attachment. (12mark)

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´╗┐Outline and Evaluate Learning Theory of Attachment. (12mark) Psychologists have many different theories to explain attachment, one being the Learning Theory. This theory is based on behaviourist?s theory and suggests that all behaviour is learnt rather than innate. They describe children as ?blank slates? when they are born and that everything a child becomes can be explained by the experiences they have. The theory suggests that all behaviour is learned through classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is learning through association. Before attachment is learned, the child gains pleasure through being fed. The food is the unconditioned stimulus which led to pleasure which is the unconditioned response. When the child is being fed, over time they associate the person providing the food with the food. ...read more.


The infant learns that food is a reward and food is known as the primary reinforcer as it directly helps avoid discomfort. The person who supplies the food becomes the secondary reinforcer. After a while, the presence of the mother is a source of comfort and security and the child develops an attachment with her because she is the one who is able to reward. Both learning theories, classical and operant, are often called ?cupboard love? theories as food is key to the development of attachment and this would seem reasonably true, however food many not play a role in the development of attachment. Harlow?s study called ?The Origins of Love? goes against the idea of food being important. ...read more.


However, this experiment was conducted on animals and therefore a baby may not react in the same way as the monkeys did. Can we apply the information from Harlow?s study to a baby? Schaffer and Emerson reinforced the idea of food not being the key in developing attachment. They observed 60 babies for a year and found out that the children were not most attached to those who fed them but to those who interacted with them the most and that it was the quality of interaction with the infant that was most important. This therefore suggests that food is not the most effective explanation of attachment and this backs up Harlow?s study. These studies suggest that ?cupboard love? theories are not likely to be the best explanation for attachment, although association and reinforcement may still play a part. ...read more.

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