Learning Theory Studies

Learning Theory states that behaviours are learnt rather than being innate/inborn.

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Learning theory- Harlow -'The Origins of Love'

  • Investigating whether or not feeding has anything to do w/ attachment
  • He created two wire monkey 'mothers'-one was a wire cage w/ a milk bottle attached, the other was wrapped in soft cloth but offered no food
  • Learning theory states the monkey should have been attached to the food giving mother, as it reduced the hunger drive, but it actually spent most time wit the cloth mother, clinging to it when frightened-proximity seeking behaviour
  • This shows contact comfort is more important than food in regards to the development of attachment.
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Learning theory- Schaffer + Emerson

  • Observed 60 babies from working class families over a year
  • Infants become most attached to the person that spent the most time with them, was the most responsive and who interacted with them the most.
  • NOT who fed them.
  • This shows that association and reinforcement only PARTLY affect attachment
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Learning Theory-Classical Conditioning-Pavlov

  • Used dogs salivation towards food to show how behaviours can be learnt through association, here is it applied to children and food.

Before Conditioning

The unconditioned stimulus (UCS) produces an unconditioned reflex.(UCR)

This UCS is the food, and the babies pleasure is the UCR.

During Conditioning

The person who provides food and the food itself become associated.

After Conditioning

Conditioned Stimulus (CS) produces a conditioned response. (CR)

Pleasure now becomes a CR to the feeder, the feeder gives the baby pleasure, the association between an individual and a sense of pleasure is the attachment bond.

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Learning Theory-Operant Conditioning-Dollard + Mil

  • Behaviour can be learnt through positive reinforcement, or punishment. 
  • If a behaviour earns a positive consequence, it is reinforced and is more likely to be repeated. If a behaviour earns a punishment on the other hand , it will be less likely that you will repeat said behaviour.
  • Here is an explanation of attachment using operant conditioning.

1)The hungry infant feels uncomfortable and then produces a hunger drive to reduce this discomfort.

2)When the infant is fed, the drive is reduced, creating pleasure, which is rewarding.

3)Food becomes a primary reinforcer, because it reinforces the behaviour to reduce discomfort.

4)The supplier of food becomes a secondary reinforcer, and also a source of reward.

5)Attachment is then formed as the child tries to seek the person who supplies the reward.

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