Slides in this set
Learning theory- classical conditioning
· Classical conditioning is learning by association, a key thinker in this area of
psychology is Pavlov, where he conditioned dogs to associate a bell with food.
· This theory states that attachment develops from learning through association.
· A child will cry in times of discomfort, usually when they are hungry.
· Milk is seen as an unconditioned stimulus, so it is unlearnt, and it produces the
unconditioned response of pleasure, at relief from hunger.
· The mother is the neutral stimulus, she is introduced and gives the child milk, so
the child receives the response of pleasure.
· Gradually, the mother becomes the conditioned stimulus, and pleasure is the
· So the child learns to associate the mother, with the pleasant response gained
from food, and they therefore become attached.…read more
Learning theory- operant conditioning
· Operant conditioning is learning through the consequences of behaviour,
key thinkers in this area of psychology are Skinner and Thorndike.
· A child cries in times of discomfort.
· The mother responds to this by trying to comfort the child. This acts as
negative reinforcement, because an unpleasant stimulus (the baby crying)
has been taken away when certain behaviour is shown.
· The baby also gets attached to the mother, when he/she cries, the mother
gives them a `reward' of comfort. This is positive reinforcement because a
pleasant stimulus (the mothers comfort) is presented when certain
behaviour is shown.
· This cycle carries on and gradually attachment develops.…read more
Learning theory evaluation
· This theory is backed up by vast amounts of evidence. Studies from Watson and Rayner
and Pavlov have proved the validity of classical conditioning, and studies from Skinner and
Thorndike have proved the validity of operant conditioning. This makes the theory
extremely reliable when considering attachment.
· A lot of these studies, however, are conducted on animals (excluding Watson and Rayners
study). This means that it is extremely hard to generalise the findings of the experiment to
humans, because humans are completely different both physically and psychologically.
· A study conducted by Harlow disproves the learning theory of attachment. He found that
went baby monkeys are frightened, instead of seeking comfort in the `mother' figure that
gave them food everyday, they turned to the `mother' that looked the most comforting.
This means that attachment is not all to do with food, there are other factors too.
· The learning theory of attachment is reductionist. It only considers that we attach to
people because we are fed by them. It completely ignores all instinctive behaviours such as
Bowlby's evolutionary theory.…read more
Bowlby's evolutionary theory
· This theory of attachment states that we have an innate, instinctive
programming to form attachments. This has evolved through natural
selection and is important for our survival.
· It states that infants give off social releases e.g. crying to enable them to
form an attachment, and mothers are programmed to respond to these.
· Bowlby suggests that we form one main attachment, to a primary care
giver, this idea is known as monotrophy. He states that this first, main
attachment provides an internal working model or templates for future
attachments (the continuity hypothesis).
· He also says that we form attachments in a critical period, and if
attachment is disrupted, or it doesn't occur in this period, then there will
be serious consequences. This is known as Bowlby's maternal deprivation