Learning theory

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  • Learning Theory
    • Much of our behaviour is the result of learning through interactions and experiences with our environment
    • Attachment is not innate but rather a behaviour that is learned through the process of classical and operant conditioning
    • classical conditioning of an attachment occurs when an association forms between the pleasure and the comfort an infant gets when feeding and the caregiver who is feeding them
    • Operant conditioning is the learning process responsible for maintaining and strengthing the attachment
      • The infant's attachment behaviour are positively reinforced by the response of their caregiver because its rewarding
        • The caregiver's response is negatively reinforced by the removal of the unpleasant noise because this is also rewarding
          • if behaviours are reinforced this way they are likely to be repeated and so the attachment is maintained
    • Evidence
      • Baby becomes attached to the person who feeds it
        • Rhesus monkeys study found that baby monkeys who were raised with fake wire 'mothers'
          • did not spend time clinging to the wire mothers that dispenses milk and did not run to it when frightened
            • they preferred the wire mother that did not dispense food but was covered in a soft towel
        • This study shows that food isn't the main factor in forming a relationship so challenges learning theory
        • Used monkeys (unethical on babies) we cannot generalise the results completely to humans.
          • Doesn't offer such a strong challenge to learning theory
      • Attachment will develop over time as the baby learns to be attached through classical conditioning
        • Babies are happy to be looked after anyone and do not have a preference for an individual carer until they get to about 7 months old
          • they suddenly show that they want to be with their main carer and want to stay close to them
            • this evidence challenges learning theory as it proposes that the attachment would gradually increase in strength
        • whereas it appears suddenly at the same age in all infants (crawling age)
        • this attachment means babies don't move too far from carer which prevents them from crawling to danger and keeps them safe
          • supportive with Bowlby's theory that an attachment forms because it increases changes of survival
  • this association is so strong that the infant feels comforted by the caregiver alone, even without food.
    • classical conditioning of an attachment occurs when an association forms between the pleasure and the comfort an infant gets when feeding and the caregiver who is feeding them
    • this is the attachment

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