Explanations of attachment: Learning theory

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  • AO1:
  • Dollard and Miller - Learning theory of attachment: 
  • the importance of food is often called the 'cupboard love' explanation because it emphasises the importance of food in attachment fondation. Children learn to love who feeds them. 
  • Classical conditioning:
  • Classical conditioning involves learning to associate 2 stimuli. In attachment: UCS (food) leads to UCR (a feeling of pleasure). This response isn't learned so it is an unconditioned response. A caregiver (mother) starts as an NS (a thing which produces a neutral response). This person providing food over time becomes associated with 'food'. So the neutral stimulus becomes a CS (conditioned stimulus). Once conditioning has taken place the sight of the caregiver produces a CR of pleasure. Accoring to a learning theorist, this is the basis of attachment love. 
  • Operant conditioning:
  • Operant conditioning explains why babies cry for comfort (an important building block for attachment). Crying leads to a response from the caregiver (e.g. feeding). As long as the caregiver provides the corect response, crying is reinforced because it produces a pleasurable consequence. 
  • At the same time as the baby is reinforced for crying, the caregiver recieves negative reinforcement because the crying stops (negative reinforcement is escaping from something unpleasant). This interplay of positive/negative reinforcement strengthens an attachment. 
  • Hunger is a primary drive, an innate biological motvator. We are motivated to eat to…

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