Marking my AQA A-Level Psychology Essay: Learning Theory and Attachment

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TickTockTeo
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Hello! I was wondering if anyone could mark my essay. My teacher ignores me whenever I try to ask her to mark any extra work that I do and it's very hard for me to actually improve then. All I know, from assessments done at school, is I need to improve my AO3 and exam technique as my knowledge is good.

Thank you so much for marking it.

Outline and evaluate learning theory as an explanation of attachment. (16 marks)

Learning theory explains how infants can form attachment bonds with their caregivers based on infants learning to associate food with their caregiver. Dollard and Miller (1950) were the first to suggest the application of learning theory to suggest attachment.

One way learning theory can be used to explain attachment is through classical conditioning which is when an unconditioned stimulus is associated with a neutral stimulus to produce a conditioned response. In the context of attachment, the unconditioned stimulus is food because it produces a unconditioned response in the infant (i.e. food) and the neutral stimulus is the caregiver as they do not produce any response (i.e. a neutral response) in the infant (learning theorists believe we are born with a blank slate mind meaning they do not believe that the infant being in the womb of a biological mother could lead to attachment, hence the caregiver produces 0 response). As the caregiver feeds the infant over a long period of time, the infant learns to associate the unconditioned stimulus to the neutral stimulus (so the caregiver is associated with food). This leads to 'love' / attachment bonds because the caregiver becomes a conditioned stimulus which causes the infant to feel pleasure (a conditioned response).

Another way learning theory can be used to explain attachment is through operant conditioning which is when behaviour is reinforced, making it more or less likely to be repeated. In the context of attachment, the infant, for example, may cry because they are hungry. If the caregiver feeds the infant, the behaviour is said to have been positively reinforced because it has helped the infant to satisfy a biological need to avoid death. Because it has been positively reinforced, the crying is more likely to happen so the baby can be fed. This leads to the baby relying on the caregiver, forming an attachment bond. This process is two-way as by feeding the baby, the caregiver's behaviour has been negatively reinforced by silencing the baby from crying which is an unpleasant noise. The caregiver will be more likely to feed the baby in the future, allowing the infant to rely on the caregiver and forming an attachment bond.

One limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that findings from animal research cannot be explained using learning theory, making the theory less reliable. The ethologist Lorenz (1935) set up a classic experiment where he randomly divided a clutch of goose eggs into two conditions: one where the eggs hatched in natural conditions where the mother goose was the first moving object that they saw and another where the eggs hatched in an incubator where the first moving object that they saw was Lorenz. He found that the geese imprinted (i.e. formed an attachment bond) with whatever they saw first that moved despite neither being fed. This goes against learning theory because learning theory emphasises the need for food or the caregiver satisfying any need of the infant over a long period of time whereas Lorenz found that the geese imprinted on him immediately after being hatched despite never satisfying their needs. Since learning theory is a behaviourist approach to psychology, they further believe that animals and humans have very similar minds. Hence, this acts as a limitation because the theory cannot explain, or be generalised, to certain animal studies.

Another limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that it cannot be used to explain certain human studies on attachment. Shaffer and Emerson (1964) did a study involving 60 babies from skilled working-class families in which they visited the homes of each baby and asked their mothers about the protest the babies showed when separated from an adult (i.e. separation anxiety) which was used as a behavioural category to measure the level of attachment the infant had to every adult in their life. They found that attachment happened most to the caregiver who was most interactive with them and showed high levels of reciprocity (responding the infants signals). This goes against learning theory as the attachment does not occur to the caregiver who feeds the child most over a long period of time, but just is present and interacting with them. Hence, this reduces the reliability of using learning theory to explain attachment because it cannot explain the findings from this study.

Finally, one last limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that it cannot be used to explain variations in attachment types. Ainsworth (1978) found three types of attachment from researching using her strange situation test: secure attachment (will explore but still uses their caregiver as a secure base, showed moderate separation distress and stranger anxiety and requires comfort), insecure-avoidant attachment (will explore but does not use their caregiver as a secure base, showed little separation distress and stranger anxiety and does not need comfort) and insecure-resistant attachment (explored less and showed huge separation distress but still resisted comfort when being reunited). Ainsworth explained these by variations in caregiver behaviour, e.g. consistency and responsiveness. However, learning theory cannot explain these variations because all the caregivers fed their children so, if looking at it through that perspective, there should be no variations in attachment. Hence, learning theory cannot be used to explain these differences in attachment which reduces its reliability in the use of it as a theory.
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emma543
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I would say it's a high mark response- but I would suggest shortening your AO1- just do one paragraph, and then do another paragraph on AO3. Hope this helps
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esraaf0001
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(Original post by TickTockTeo)
Hello! I was wondering if anyone could mark my essay. My teacher ignores me whenever I try to ask her to mark any extra work that I do and it's very hard for me to actually improve then. All I know, from assessments done at school, is I need to improve my AO3 and exam technique as my knowledge is good.

Thank you so much for marking it.

Outline and evaluate learning theory as an explanation of attachment. (16 marks)

Learning theory explains how infants can form attachment bonds with their caregivers based on infants learning to associate food with their caregiver. Dollard and Miller (1950) were the first to suggest the application of learning theory to suggest attachment.

One way learning theory can be used to explain attachment is through classical conditioning which is when an unconditioned stimulus is associated with a neutral stimulus to produce a conditioned response. In the context of attachment, the unconditioned stimulus is food because it produces a unconditioned response in the infant (i.e. food) and the neutral stimulus is the caregiver as they do not produce any response (i.e. a neutral response) in the infant (learning theorists believe we are born with a blank slate mind meaning they do not believe that the infant being in the womb of a biological mother could lead to attachment, hence the caregiver produces 0 response). As the caregiver feeds the infant over a long period of time, the infant learns to associate the unconditioned stimulus to the neutral stimulus (so the caregiver is associated with food). This leads to 'love' / attachment bonds because the caregiver becomes a conditioned stimulus which causes the infant to feel pleasure (a conditioned response).

Another way learning theory can be used to explain attachment is through operant conditioning which is when behaviour is reinforced, making it more or less likely to be repeated. In the context of attachment, the infant, for example, may cry because they are hungry. If the caregiver feeds the infant, the behaviour is said to have been positively reinforced because it has helped the infant to satisfy a biological need to avoid death. Because it has been positively reinforced, the crying is more likely to happen so the baby can be fed. This leads to the baby relying on the caregiver, forming an attachment bond. This process is two-way as by feeding the baby, the caregiver's behaviour has been negatively reinforced by silencing the baby from crying which is an unpleasant noise. The caregiver will be more likely to feed the baby in the future, allowing the infant to rely on the caregiver and forming an attachment bond.

One limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that findings from animal research cannot be explained using learning theory, making the theory less reliable. The ethologist Lorenz (1935) set up a classic experiment where he randomly divided a clutch of goose eggs into two conditions: one where the eggs hatched in natural conditions where the mother goose was the first moving object that they saw and another where the eggs hatched in an incubator where the first moving object that they saw was Lorenz. He found that the geese imprinted (i.e. formed an attachment bond) with whatever they saw first that moved despite neither being fed. This goes against learning theory because learning theory emphasises the need for food or the caregiver satisfying any need of the infant over a long period of time whereas Lorenz found that the geese imprinted on him immediately after being hatched despite never satisfying their needs. Since learning theory is a behaviourist approach to psychology, they further believe that animals and humans have very similar minds. Hence, this acts as a limitation because the theory cannot explain, or be generalised, to certain animal studies.

Another limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that it cannot be used to explain certain human studies on attachment. Shaffer and Emerson (1964) did a study involving 60 babies from skilled working-class families in which they visited the homes of each baby and asked their mothers about the protest the babies showed when separated from an adult (i.e. separation anxiety) which was used as a behavioural category to measure the level of attachment the infant had to every adult in their life. They found that attachment happened most to the caregiver who was most interactive with them and showed high levels of reciprocity (responding the infants signals). This goes against learning theory as the attachment does not occur to the caregiver who feeds the child most over a long period of time, but just is present and interacting with them. Hence, this reduces the reliability of using learning theory to explain attachment because it cannot explain the findings from this study.

Finally, one last limitation of using learning theory to explain attachment is that it cannot be used to explain variations in attachment types. Ainsworth (1978) found three types of attachment from researching using her strange situation test: secure attachment (will explore but still uses their caregiver as a secure base, showed moderate separation distress and stranger anxiety and requires comfort), insecure-avoidant attachment (will explore but does not use their caregiver as a secure base, showed little separation distress and stranger anxiety and does not need comfort) and insecure-resistant attachment (explored less and showed huge separation distress but still resisted comfort when being reunited). Ainsworth explained these by variations in caregiver behaviour, e.g. consistency and responsiveness. However, learning theory cannot explain these variations because all the caregivers fed their children so, if looking at it through that perspective, there should be no variations in attachment. Hence, learning theory cannot be used to explain these differences in attachment which reduces its reliability in the use of it as a theory.
this is definitely a high level response so you are doing the right thing- little tips though would be condensing your AO1 to make sure you spend more time on the evaluation as it holds more marks- the evaluation is really good but you could consider including some advantages to show counter arguments etc.. if you have any other questions or things you want mark lmk!
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