Evaluation of learning theory
A strength of learning theory is that its principles
are based on scientific principles from an
established approach within the field of
Psychology. For example, classical and operant
conditioning are based on research by Pavlov
and Skinner and form part of the behaviourist
model. This means that there is empirical
evidence to suggest humans may learn
behaviours (such as attachment) according to
these principles.
Evaluation of learning theory
One weakness of the learning theory of
attachment is that it is a reductionist
explanation. For example, it ‘reduces’ (breaks
down) the complex behaviour of attachment to
very simple components such as stimulusresponse or reinforcement. Whilst learned
experiences may influence attachment, reducing
attachment to a single component means that
learning theory largely ignores all the other
influences on our attachments such as innate
drives (Bowlby) and a child’s temperament.
Task: Write 3 of your own evaluation
paragraphs (using the PEE structure)
• A problem with the learning theory is that research
suggests that infants don’t always attach through the
provision of food and may prefer comfort. For example,
Harlow (1959) found…
• Furthermore, another limitation of learning theory is that
it is based on studies with non-human animals. For
• A final weakness of the learning theory of attachment is
that research does not support the idea that infants
learn to attach to the one person that feeds them The
mother). For example, Schaffer and Emerson found…
Compare and contrast theories of
• Evolutionary
• Learning
Exam focus
Outline how psychologists have studied
(4 marks)
Outline what research into attachment has
(6 marks)
Explain one limitation of the evolutionary
explanation of attachment. (3 marks)

Evaluation of learning theory