Describe and Evaluate the Learning Theory Into Attachment

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Describe and Evaluate the Learning Theory into Attachment. (12 marks) According to the learning theory, infants learn to be attached to their primary caregiver through classical conditioning and operant conditioning. By the process of classical conditioning, the baby forms an association between the mother, who is a neutral stimulus, and the feeling of pleasure that comes from being fed, an innate unconditioned response. At first, the baby simply feels comforted by food. However each time he is fed, the mother is there too. He quickly associates the mother with the pleasure of being fed. Before long, the mother stimulates a feeling of pleasure on her own, even without food. This means the baby feels happier when the mother is near. It marks the beginning of attachment. In the process of operant conditioning, the mother rewards the infant by feeding him, so the infant associates the mother with the reward and repeats any action that brings her close. This happens because food brings a feeling of pleasure to the baby. Food is a primary reinforcer by removing discomfort; it reinforces the behaviour that led to its arrival. But food never comes without the mother bringing it so the mother becomes the secondary reinforcer, even without bringing food; the presence of the caregiver reduces discomfort and brings a feeling of pleasure. The baby will therefore repeat any action which brings the caregiver close. It may be the warmth and attention that we receive when we feed that leads to attachment. Schaffer and Emerson observed 60 infants for a year. They found that the infants were most attached to the person that interacted with them the most and responded sensitively to them, not to the person that fed them. The baby will attach to whoever is the most sensitive and loving. This is also shown in Harlow’s study, ‘Love in Infant Monkeys’. Harlow conducted
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