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The learning theory

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Describe and evaluate one explanation of attachment in the case of the Learning Theory Behaviourists state that we do not control our lives, behaviour and destiny through the inner processes of our mind but through our observational behaviour. Therefore behaviourists put forward the 'learning theory'. The learning theory states that our behaviour is not innate but in fact learned from birth. There are two parts to the learning theory which behaviourists believe we learn our behaviour through (including attachment). The first is 'Classical conditioning' and the second 'Operant conditioning'. Behaviourists state that the strongest attachments will be shown to the person providing food and that feeding is crucial for attachment. ...read more.


During conditioning the unconditioned stimulus is the mother providing the food and the baby's unconditioned response is pleasure. After conditioning, the baby has now associated his mother with food therefore the conditioned stimulus is the mother and the conditioned response is food. This type of classical conditioning explains how the learning theory works and also how an attachment is formed between a mother and baby. Operant conditioning can back up classical conditioning as it is all about learning through consequences. This type of behaviour is formed by the use of reinforcement or punishment. Operant conditioning proceeds after classical conditioning. ...read more.


In fact the strongest form of attachment they found was to those that responded to a child/baby most sensitively, for example, parents or guardians that could recognise the difference between their baby's cries and tend to them accordingly. Another criticism of behaviourist's theory of attachment is the research by Harlow on rhesus monkeys. Harlow's experiment comprised of a monkey in a cage with two wire monkeys, one covered in a warm soft cloth and the other left bare but with a bottle of milk attached to it to provide the monkey with food. This experiment showed that the monkeys preferred the wire monkey covered in the cloth. His research indicates that comfort and security are more important foundations to forming attachments. ...read more.

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