Explanation of Attachment
Mary Ainsworth described attachment as: An affectionate tie that one person or animal forms between itself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time. The behavioural hallmark of attachment is seeking to gain and to maintain a certain degree of proximity to the object of attachment. Attachment behaviours aim to maintain proximity or contact.
The learning theory proposes that all behaviour is learned rather than inborn. When children are born they are like blank slates and everything they become can be explained in terms of experiences they have learned. Learning Theory is put forward by behaviourists who prefer to focus their explanations solely on behaviour. Behaviourists suggest that all behaviour is learned either through classical or operant conditioning.
This is learning through association Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, first described this. He was conducting research on the salvation reflex in dogs, recording how much they salivated before they were fed. He noticed that they started salivating even before they were fed. The dogs salivated as soon as they heard the door open, signalling the arrival of food. They had learnt a new stimulus response (SR). They learned to salivate (response) when the door opened (stimulus).
Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) produces an Unconditioned Reflex (UCR)
Food (UCS) makes the dog salivate (UCR)
Food and door opening occur together a number of times
Conditioned Stimulus (CS) produces a Conditioned Response (CR)
Door opening (CS) makes the dog salivate (CR)
The same principles can be used to explain attachment. Food (UCS) naturally produces a sense of pleasure (UCR). The person who feeds (CS) the infant is associated with the food. The feeder eventually produces pleasure associated with the food; pleasure now becomes an conditioned response (CR). This association between an individual and a sense of pleasure is the attachment.
Each time you do something and it results in pleasant consequences, the behaviour is stomped in or reinforced. It becomes more probable that you will repeat the same behaviour in the future. If you do something and it results in unpleasant consequences, its less likely that you will repeat the behaviour. These two outcomes are called reinforcement and punishment
Dollard and Miller (1950) offered an explanation of attachment based on operant conditioning. They suggested that a hungry infant feels uncomfortable and this creates a drive to reduce discomfort. When the infant is fed the drive is reduced and produces pleasure. Food is a primary reinforcer and the person who…