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Outline and Evaluate the Explanation of the Learning Theory

  • Submitted by: ellakay007
  • on September 20, 2012
  • Category: Psychology
  • Length: 375 words

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Outline and evaluate the explanation of the Learning Theory

The learning theory is model that suggests that attachment is learnt as a result of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Food (Unconditioned stimulus) naturally produces a sense of pleasure (Unconditioned response) in the infant. As the mother continually provides the baby with food, she becomes the feeder and as the association between the two occurs.   Classical conditioning occurs when food (conditioned stimulus) becomes associated with the mother which causes pleasure now becomes a conditioned response. The association between the mother and a sense of pleasure is the attachment bond.
Operant conditioning is that behaviour is learnt in regard to whether they’re reinforced or not. If behaviour brings about rewards, it’ll be repeated. If behaviour brings about punishment it’s less likely to be repeated. Reinforcement is either positive or negative. Positive brings about reward; negative leads to avoidance of punishment. Attachment on behalf of the baby is a result of learning that the mother/primary caregiver brings rewards (in terms of food which reduces their hunger and is thus viewed as rewarding).
However the research doesn’t support the proposal that attachment is based solely on food/primary provider. Schaffer and Emerson (1984) showed that 37% of attachments are not with primary caregiver.
Harlow & Zimmerman (1959) did an experiment with monkeys where they had an option of two mothers one made of cloth and other made of wire however, which had the capacity to supply food to the monkey. The baby monkey did not learn to attach to the wire cloth monkey even though it supplied food; on average it only spent an hour with the wire monkey as apposed to the 17-18 hours he spent on the cloth monkey. This showed that attachment was based on comfort not food. However there are extrapolation issues with this study, as we can’t generalise from monkey to humans. Also the two separate...

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