Animal Studies of Attachment

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  • Animal Studies of Attachment
    • Harlow 1958
      • Findings:
        • When frightened by a loud noise monkeys clung to the cloth mother
        • monkeys even stretched across to the wire mother to feed whilst still clinging to the cloth mother (providing comfort).
        • In the larger cage conditions, monkeys with the cloth mothers explored more and visited their surrogate mother more.
        • Monkeys preferred contact with the cloth mother (regardless of which dispensed milk)
      • Procedure:
        • 16 newborn monkeys
          • Wire mother with milk, cloth mother with no milk
          • Wire mother with no milk, cloth mother with milk
        • Time spent with mother and feeding time recorded
        • The monkeys were also frightened with loud noises to test for mother preference during times of stress.
      • Conclusion:
        • Rhesus monkeys have an innate, unlearned need for contact comfort, suggesting that attachment concerns emotional security more than food.
        • Contact comfort is associated with lower levels of stress and a willingness to explore, indicating emotional security.
      • Aim: To test Learning theory by comparing attachment behaviour in baby monkeys given a wire surrogate mother producing milk with those given a soft towelling mother producing no milk.
      • Evaluation
        • Strength: control potential extraneous variables such as the monkeys being taken away from their mothers straight after birth, the baby monkeys not being exposed to any love or attention from their biological mothers.
          • high internal validity allowing a cause and effect relationship to be established.
        • Weakness: the highly controlled laboratory setting that Harlow used is not reflective of the real life situations and may cause the monkeys to behave in an artificial manner.
          • wasn’t necessarily measuring the real-life attachment formation and therefore the study can be criticised for lacking ecological validity.
        • Weakness: Unethical - when placed with unstudied monkeys, the studied monkeys could not communicate
    • Lorenz
      • Evaluation
        • Strengths: findings have been highly influential within the field of developmental psychology.
          • lead developmental psychologists (such as Bowlby) to develop well recognised theories of attachment suggesting the attachment formation takes place during a critical period and is a biological process. Such theories have been highly influential in the way child care is administered today.
        • Weakness: generalisability to humans - mammalian attachment system is quite different from that of birds
          • Guiton et al (1966) found that chickens imprinted on yellow washing up gloves would try to mate with them as adults however, with experience, they eventually learned to prefer other chickens.
            • This is a weakness because this suggests that the impact of imprinting on mating behaviour is not as permanent as Lorenz believed.
      • Procedure
        • split goose eggs into two batches. Batch 1 grew up naturally with mother. Batch 2 grew up with Lorenz being the first moving object the goslings encountered
        • Record gosling's behaviour
        • placed all the goslings under and upturned box. The box was then removed and the gosling’s behaviour was recorded.
      • Conclusion
        • Imprinting is a form of attachment, exhibited mainly by nidifugous birds (ones who have to leave the nest early), whereby close contact is kept with the first large moving object encountered.
      • Fidnings
        • After birth, the naturally hatched baby goslings followed their mother about whilst the incubator hatched goslings followed Lorenz around showing no natural bond to natural mother.
        • These bonds proved to be irreversible
        • Lorenz noticed how the process of imprinting occurred only a short period of time after birth (between 4 and 25 hours).


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