Describe and evaluate the learning theory for attachments. The learning theory suggests that we are born with a blank slate which means everyone starts off exactly the same, and then we learn all of our behaviours once we are born. The learning theory is split into two areas, Operant and Classical conditioning. Operant conditioning is one part of the learning theory to describe attachments. This states that attachments are formed through positive and negative reinforcements.
An example of positive reinforcement is when a baby dries and then receives attention and comfort from the parent. Negative reinforcement happens when the parent ignores the baby crying, and then pays attention to the baby when it stops crying. Through this the reinforcement rewards the baby and helps to make the parent happy. The baby learns to form an attachment with the fact that it is rewarding them.
Classical conditioning is another way that attachments can be formed with the carer who feeds the baby because food provides a baby with pleasure and makes them happy, the food is provided by the caregiver which makes the baby happy. The baby then learns to associate the happy feeling that food gives he baby, with the caregiver, thus forming an attachment. This is also known as the ‘cupboard love theory.
Studies have proven that babies do usually form attachments to the people who physically care for the baby, Schaffer and Emerson found that over 50% of the babies they observed in Glasgow formed their first attachment with the food provider so this shows that association and reinforcement must play a role in babies forming attachments. However, some research has found that food may not be the most important part of forming attachments, Schaffer and Emerson also found hat 39% of babies formed attachments to someone other than their feeder thus showing that the cupboard love theory may not be a full explanation for attachments.
This shows the learning theory can’t be correct as a stand-alone approach to explaining attachments. The learning theory also has face validity because it is a simple explanation that has research with the Little Albert Study which worked by getting him afraid of white fluffy things using classical conditioning shows that we do learn through association and reinforcement. Therefore showing that the learning heory is a good explanation for how attachments can be formed.
Many studies into the learning theory and supporting the learning theory are carried out on animals, For example Harlow looked at Rhesus monkeys, who are not the same as humans and therefore may behave differently. Therefore it is difficult to generalise the results of the studies to humans and therefore can’t provide substantial support for learning theory as an explanation for human attachments. Describe and evaluate the learning theory for attachments (12) By danwillyouphilmein