Explanations of Attachment: Learning Theory

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  • Learning Theory
    • What is learning theory?
      • Proposes that behaviour is learnt rather than innate
      • Put forward by behaviourists
        • There are two types of conditioning
          • Classical
          • Operant
    • The types of conditioning
      • Operant
        • Learning through rewards
          • When you do something producing a pleasant consequence the behaviour is reinforced
            • Because of this you are more likely to repeat it in the future
              • Dollard and Miller (1950) provide  explanation of this
                • An infant feels hungry- creates discomfort
                  • Natural drive to reduce displeasure
                    • When infant is fed drive is reduced- produces pleasure
                      • Food= primary reinforcer
                        • Food supplier i.e parent=secondary reinforcer
                          • becomes source of reward themselves
                        • (reinforces behaviour to avoid discomfort)
          • If your behaviour results in a negative consequence you become less likely to repeat it
      • Classical
        • Learning through association
        • Pavlov's dog is an example of Classical conditioning
          • He was researching the salivation levels in dogs when they are fed
            • He found that the dogs began salivating as soon as he entered the room with food
              • They had learned a conditioned response
                • The same principles apply to attachment
                  • Food produces unconditioned response
                    • Person supplying food gets associated with pleasure (conditioned stimulus)
                      • "Feeder" becomes associated with the pleasure that the food originally produced
                        • Pleasure now a conditioned response
    • Evaluation
      • Strengths
        • Learning theory provides an adequate explanation of how attachments form
      • Weaknesses
        • Role of food in attachment: strong evidence to suggest that food has nothing to do with attachment
          • Harlow's monkey (1959)
            • Created two wire mothers
              • Found that the monkeys preferred the soft mother
                • Shows that comfort may be more important than food
            • One "mother" had food
            • One "mother" had a soft blanket attached
        • Schaffer and Emerson (1964)
          • Studied 60 working class glaswegian infants
            • Most infants not attached to person who fed them
            • Most attached to person who played with them the most


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