The basic idea is that attachments are formed for survival.
Ethologists such as Konrad Lorenz noticed a tendency of new born orphaned animals to form an attachment to any animal that happened to be present; they would also follow it as if it were their real mother. In order to investigate this rapid formation of attachment, Lorenz carried out a number of studies with greylag geese.
- In 1935, he divided a number of fertile goose eggs randomly into 2 groups. Half were placed under their mother and allowed to hatch naturally, the other half were kept in an incubator. Lorenz ensured he was the first moving thing the incubator hatched aggs saw. He found that the goslings formed a rapid attachment to him and would follow him around as if her were their mother.
- A short time after hatching, Lorenz placed the two groups of goslings together and then released them... they separated into twho groups, each seeking their own 'mother.
- Lorenz called this rapid formation of attachment to the first large moving object seen after birth 'imprinting'. He also said that imprinting had to take place within a window of time development called the 'critical period' and that if attachments aren't formed in this time, they may never be formed at all.
In mobile species such as animals, imprinting clearly makes sense... but babies aren't mobile from birth, so because of their immobile state, babies would have been extremely vulnerable to pretadors in the past. Therefore, the formation of an early protective bond from adults (particularly mum) to a baby would make sense in evolutionary terms.
Bowlby's theory has several key concepts relating to the formation of attachments and these are:
- Attachments are adaptive.
- Babies have social releasers.