Developmental
Psychology
ATTACHMENT
Learning Objectives

To define the term “attachment”

To describe and evaluate the learning theory of attachment
What is attachment?
Explanations of attachment

You need to know TWO:
-
Learning theory
-
Evolutionary theory
-
We will be focusing on learning theory today – based on the behaviourist
approach – all behaviour is learned
Classical and Operant Conditioning

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6LEcM0E0io
Classical and Operant conditioning

How could these be applied to attachment behaviour in infants?

Need to talk about DRIVE REDUCTION for operant conditioning
Classical Conditioning

Learning through association

For example, in Pavolv’s dogs, the bell was associated with food, so
eventually just hearing the bell would cause the dogs to salivate.

Another example, associate the dentist with pain so don’t like visiting the
dentist

IN ATTACHMENT – FOOD GIVES THE INFANT PLEASURE, MOTHER GIVES
INFANT FOOD. THE INFANT THEREFORE ASSOCIATES THE MOTHER WITH FOOD
AND PLEASURE AND EXPERIENCES PLEASURE SIMPLY BY BEING AROUND THE
MOTHER SO FORMS AN ATTACHMENT
Operant conditioning

Learning through reinforcement and punishment

Positive reinforcement – adding a reward to increase the likelihood of a behaviour occurring –
getting a bar of chocolate for washing up

Negative reinforcement – taking something unpleasant away increases the likelihood of a
behaviour occurring – e.g. not having to do homework if do the washing up

Punishment – decreases the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again e.g. detention for not
doing homework – means you’ll do your homework next time!

IN ATTATCHMENT – BABY IS HUNGRY, BEING FED BY MOTHER REDUCES HUNGER (NEGATIVE
REINFORCEMENT AS SOMETHING UNPLEASANT IS BEING TAKEN AWAY) SO MOTHER ACTS AS
REINFORCER, OR A SOURCE OF REWARD, SO MAKES INFANT FORM ATTACHMENT TO THEM
EVALUATING THE LEARNING THEORY – USE OF RESEARCH EVIDENCE
Schaffer and Emerson

Studied babies in Glasgow and found that fewer than half of the infants
had a primary attachment to the person who usually fed, bathed and
changed the infant

Responsiveness to infant was more important

What does this show?
Harlow and Harlow

http://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html
Lorenz

http://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxxrDEbtuag
Exam Q

When Max was born, his mother gave up work to stay at home and look
after him.

Max’s father works long hours and does not have much to do with the
day-to-day care of his son. Max is now nine months old and he seems to
have a very close bond with his mother.

Use learning theory to explain how Max became attached to his mother
rather than to his father. (6 marks)
Mark scheme

Learning theory suggests attachment develops through classical and
operant conditioning. According to classical conditioning food produces
pleasure. Max’s mother was associated with the food and therefore being
with the mother causes pleasure too. According to operant conditioning
food satisfied Max’s hunger and made him feel comfortable again (drive
reduction). Food was therefore a primary reinforcer. His mother was
associated with food and became a secondary reinforcer. Max became
attached to his mother because she was a source of reward. Social
learning theory could also be credited.

The explanation must be directly linked to Max and his mother.

Answers which make no reference to Max and his mother maximum 3
marks.
Summary exam question
1.
Describe the learning explanation of attachment (6 marks)
2.
Evaluate the learning explanation of attachment. Use research evidence
in your answer (6 marks)