Outline and evaluate learning theory

Humans are a lot more complex than animals and so therefore research on animals to study behaviour cannot be applied to human behaviour. On the other hand, there are studies that oppose the learning theory and the ideas it proposes. A hungry baby will cry because it is distressed. Section C - Attachment 18 Attachment Essay [8 marks] Suggested Answer: The learning theory of attachment explains how children become attached to their mother or parents through the process of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Get your price writers online The learning theory of attachment is a behaviourist explanation that suggests that attachment is developed through classical or operant conditioning. This increases the validity of the strange situation as a way of measuring attachment type and means that the results can be generalised and applied to similar situations. For example, psychologists like Bowlby argue that attachments are a complex behaviour that is an adaptive behaviour that aids survival. When the attachment has been learned, the infant gains pleasure when the primary caregiver is present. The primary caregiver is the neutral stimulus , which becomes associated with food the unconditioned stimulus. It would be easy to conclude from this that conditioning does not explain attachment in infant monkeys as they are not linking food with pleasure, but clinging could actually be essential to the survival of infant monkeys whose mothers may be swinging through trees and so conditioning could still adequately explain their attachment formations - clinging is not so essential for survival to humans. Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student. The case of Little Albert shows that classical conditioning is the process by which we learn a variety of behaviours. This creates an opportunity for the carer to become associated with the removal of unpleasant feeling of hunger. It also aimed to encourage exploration by putting the infants into a novel situation and thus testing the secure base concept of Bowlby's theory of attachment.

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student. The baby monkeys most often chose the soft towelling mother whenever she was available.

skinner attachment theory

The stimulus of food produces pleasure an unconditioned stimulus which produces an unconditioned response. He even found that some of the monkeys would cling to the comfort of the towelling mother whilst leaning over to feed from the wire mother. They found that it was the quality of interaction with the infant that was most important - stronger attachments were formed with the person who was most sensitive and responsive to the infant's needs.

However the theory is extremely reductionist and there is evidence that infants can form attachments with a person who is not the primary care-giver.

Another study that supports the learning theory is Dollard and Miller which proposed the idea that attachment is a learned behaviour that is acquired through both classical and operant conditioning. Attachments were more likely to be formed to those individuals who are sensitive and rewarding to the baby and who play with the infant. The data was then collected from several studies and the results combined to make a total of middle-class infants that were observed. Evaluate The biggest flaw of Ainsworth's strange situation is the fact that it may not measure the attachment type of the infant but rather the quality of the relationship between the infant and caregiver. It also aimed to encourage exploration by putting the infants into a novel situation and thus testing the secure base concept of Bowlby's theory of attachment. Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student. Pavlov said the dogs were demonstrating classical conditioning as he used an unconditional stimulus of food to get an unconditional response of salivating. It would be easy to conclude from this that conditioning does not explain attachment in infant monkeys as they are not linking food with pleasure, but clinging could actually be essential to the survival of infant monkeys whose mothers may be swinging through trees and so conditioning could still adequately explain their attachment formations - clinging is not so essential for survival to humans. Classical conditioning as an explanation for attachment describes the baby receiving food and unconditioned stimulus and producing an unconditioned response happiness and the mother feeding the baby will be the neutral stimulus. This supports the idea of the learning theory being an explanation of attachment however, this may not be valid for humans. Weaknesses: 1 POINT: There is strong evidence from Psychological studies that suggests that attachments that form between and infant and their primary caregiver are not based on feeding. This means that food may not be the main reinforcer of attachments as argued by learning theory but rather it could be the responsiveness from the caregiver that might also be rewarding.

Behaviourists suggest that attachment is learned by classical conditioning learning by association. This increases the chances of the behaviour occurring again.

Another study that supports the learning theory is Dollard and Miller which proposed the idea that attachment is a learned behaviour that is acquired through both classical and operant conditioning. You need to mention operant conditioning and classical conditioning, but you do not need to describe them - students often make the simple mistake of describing Pavlov and Skinner and forgetting to describe attachment. The case of Little Albert shows that classical conditioning is the process by which we learn a variety of behaviours. A second issue with the learning theory is that the theory and research is largely based on studies using non-human participants. Harlow found that baby monkeys spent more time with a soft towelling monkey which did not provide food , in comparison to a wire monkey which did provided food. Harlow's monkey study involved giving a baby monkey the choice of either food or comfort food was portrayed by a wire 'monkey' with a feeding bottle attached to it and comfort was portrayed by a wire 'monkey' covered in cloth. Over time the pleasure of being made comfortable by being fed becomes associated with the primary caregiver. This leads to a conditioned response of relief from hunger and the formation of an attachment, as the child learns to associate the mother with feelings of relief and happiness. This could mean that the strange situation doesn't fully measure what it is supposed to which ultimately decreases the validity of the strange situation as a measurement of attachment type. This decreases the validity of the learning theory of attachment as an explanation for attachment because the findings of Harlow's monkey study opposed what it suggested.

Pavlov said the dogs were demonstrating classical conditioning as he used an unconditional stimulus of food to get an unconditional response of salivating. Although classic conditioning has now been explored with young infants.

evaluation of dollard and miller 1950

The primary caregiver is now the conditioned stimulus and pleasure is now the conditioned response. On the other hand, there are studies that oppose the learning theory and the ideas it proposes.

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