Psychology AS - Developmental Psychology

AKA the Attachment part

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Learning Theory - Classical condition

Classical Conditioning

Before conditoning

 unconditioned stimulus (UCS) produces an unconditioned repsonse (UCR). In the case of an infant, food (UCS) produces pleasure (UCR).

During conditioning

a neutral stimulus (NS) occurs at the same time as the UCS and they beome associated, so the NS predicts the UCS and causes the UCR

Attatachment occurs because of this learned connection between person and pleasure

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Learning Theory - Operant conditioning

A hungry infant feels unconmfortable, creating a drive to reduce discomfort e.g. feeding.

When the infant is fed, the drive is reduced and this produces a feeling of pleasure (which is rewarding/reinforcing). The food becomes a primary reinforcer.

The person who supplies the food is asociated with avoiding the discomfort and becomes the secondary reinforcer, through classical conditioning.

Therefore the person doing the feeding os seem as a source of rewards and is sought the same way that food is sought.

Attachment occurs because the child seeks the person who can supply the reward.

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Learning Theory Strengths and Weaknesses


Learnign theory is correct because we do learn through association and reinforcement.


Research studies have shown that feeding is not the key criterion in attachment. infants are more likely to become attacjed to the person who offers the contact comfort or sensitive responsiveness, than someone who feeds them. this contact comfort seems to be innate and is demostrated in several studies.

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Harlow (1959) study - the monkey and the 2 mothers

Infants monkeys were placed in a cage with 2 fake wire 'mothers'.

There was the lactating mother which was wire and had a feeding bottle attached and the other mother which was the same wire frame but with a soft cloth wrapped around it and no source of food attached.

The monkey infants spent most time with the cloth mother and retreated to it when scared. They only went to the other 'feeding' mother when they became desperately hungry

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