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Outline and evaluate the Learning Theory explanation of an attachment.

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Christian Lunn Psychology Exam Question Outline and evaluate the Learning Theory explanation of an attachment. The learning theory proposes that attachment behaviours are learnt through the imitation of the attachment figures meaning they are not innate. One explanation of how this happens is through Classical Conditioning. In the Learning Theory Classical Conditioning is the forming of an attachment through association. The Learning Theory states that when a baby is born they naturally want food. When the mother feeds the baby it automatically associates the food which is the primary reinforces with its mother who is the secondary reinforces. Therefore an attachment is formed with the mother because she is giving what the baby needs most. Another explanation of how attachments are learned according to the Learning Theory is through Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning involves reinforcement or a reward to maintain a relationship. Dollard and Miller stated that all babies are born (like Classical Conditioning) with a need to reduce feelings of hunger. When the mother feeds the baby it acts as a positive reinforcement or a reward on the behaviour of the baby. ...read more.


The cages had 'sanitary pads' in them and Harlow thought they became attached to these as a type of 'security blanket'. Harlow believed it was contact comfort rather than food that formed an attachment. Harlow took two wire mother monkeys and with one, they were offered food and with another they were offered comfort from the mothers clothing. Harlow found that they went to the clothed mother more especially when frightened. Harlow believed this showed another sign of an attachment called a proximity seeking behaviour. Harlow was criticised about the validity of his research because he only tested two types of attachment if he disagreed with the learning theory he should have researched a number of different attachments. Harlow also made a vague evaluation saying that they went to the clothed mother when scared. This doesn't stop the fact that they went to the mother with food when hungry. Harlow was also criticised because of the ethics of this experiment. Harlow used monkeys that were kept in cages and out through many tormenting trials to see which mother they would go to. ...read more.


However in this study they only used 60 babies, which isn't enough to generalise, and it was only 23 babies out of 60, which weren't attached to their main caregivers, which isn't large enough not to be a coincidence, and could be caused due to their already upbringing, where they main care givers does not supply them with enough. Also during Shaffer and Emerson's experiment the mother's had to record their finding and results which may be inaccurate as the experiment was carried out in a normal environment over a long period, the mothers had to live their lives normally. However this could be seen as good ecological validity because it was carried out in the setting of the babies own home meaning there were few ethical issues and the children were not subjected to stress in strange situations. Finally, it would seem highly unlikely that instinct has nothing to do with the formation of attachments. This had been the alternative explanation provided by Bowlby called the Evolutionary theory or the Monotropy theory which looks at attachments as innate and how they affect the future of the child. ...read more.

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