Attachments recorded again. When released from the upturned

Attachments are a two-way, emotional bond between two
specific people that are normally created in their early stages of development.
In the 1900s researchers used animal subjects to investigate why and how we
attach to our caregivers in these early life experiences. Three of the most
well-known animal studies were conducted by Konrad Lorenz, Harry Harlow and
Ivan Pavlov.


In 1935, Konrad Lorenz devised an experiment to investigate
the mechanisms of imprinting in geese where the youngsters form an attachment
to the first large moving object they meet. Lorenz split a large group of
greylag goose eggs into two batches clusters. One of the groups were hatched in
an incubator by Lorenz, making sure he was the first large moving object they
saw, and the others hatched naturally by the mother. Immediately after birth,
the naturally hatched goslings followed their mother, whereas the incubator
hatched goslings followed Lorenz. He then marked all the goslings so that he
could determine whether they were the naturally or artificially hatched eggs
and placed them beneath and overturned box. The box was lifted and following
actions were recorded again.  When
released from the upturned box the naturally hatched goslings went straight to
their mother, while the incubated goslings followed Lorenz, showing no
attachment to their biological mother. These bonds proved irreversible. Lorenz
noted how imprinting would only occur within a brief time period between 4 and
25 hours after hatching. Subsequently, Lorenz stated how the goslings that
imprinted onto humans would, once matured, attempt to mate with humans. In
conclusion, Lorenz discovered that imprinting is a form of attachment mainly by
nidifugous birds where close contact is kept with the first large moving object
come across in the early stages of their lives.

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A strength of Lorenz’s study is that his findings have been
highly influential into attachment studies today. For example, as suggested by
Lorenz’s study imprinting is irreversible which suggests that attachment
formation is under biological control and that attachments happen within a
specific time frame. This is a strength because it has lead psychologists to
develop well recognised theories into child attachments. On the other hand, a
weakness of Lorenz’s study is that it can be criticised for extrapolation
because Lorenz conducted his study on greylag geese. This is a weakness because
humans and animals are physiologically different. The way a human infant forms
an attachment with their primary caregiver could be very different to the way
graylag geese form attachments, therefore the findings cannot be generalized to
human babies.


In 1959, Harry Harlow used rhesus monkeys to test learning
theory. Two types of surrogate mothers were constructed, a harsh ‘wire mother’
and a soft ‘towelling mother’. Four conditions were set up: a cage containing a
wire mother producing milk and a towelling mother not producing milk, a cage
containing a wire mother producing no milk and a towelling mother producing
milk, a cage containing a wire mother producing milk and finally a cage
containing a towelling mother producing milk. Sixteen baby rhesus monkeys were
used, four in each condition. Harlow recorded the amount of time spent with
each mother for comfort and feeding, the monkeys were frightened with a loud
noise to test for mother preference and a larger cage was also used to test the
monkeys’ degree of exploration. Regardless of whether the mother produced milk
or not, the babies preferred contact with the towelling mother when given a
choice. Monkeys with only a wire surrogate had diarrhoea, which is a huge sign
of stress. When frightened by a loud noise, the babies clung to the towelling
mothers where she was available. In the larger cage condition, monkeys with
towelling mothers explored more and visited their surrogate mother more often.
In result of the study, it was learnt that rhesus monkeys have an innate,
unlearned need for contact comfort, suggesting that attachment concerns
emotional security more than food. Contact comfort is also associated with
lower levels of stress and a willingness to explore, indicating emotional

Due to Harlow conducting his study in a controlled,
laboratory setting the study can be seen to have high internal validity. This
is because Harlow was unable to control potential extraneous variables such as
the babies not being exposed to any love or attention from their biological
mothers which meant he was measuring what he intended to measure, factors that
can affect the formation of attachments. However, due to his use of the highly
controlled laboratory condition, the study cannot be reflected to real life
situations and may have caused the monkeys to react in an artificial manner.
This is a weakness because it means that Harlow wasn’t necessarily measuring
the real-life attachment formation. Therefore, the study can be criticised for
lacking ecological validity.


The final, large animal study in attachment is Ivan Pavlov’s
study in to classical conditioning using dogs. Pavlov came across classical
conditioning unintentionally during his research into animal’s gastric systems.
Whilst measuring the salivation rates in dogs he discovered that they would
produce more saliva when they heard or smelt food. Pavlov’s dogs were each
placed in an isolated environment and restrained in a harness. They had a food
bowl in front of them and a monitor to measure the rate the saliva produced
throughout the experiment. He found that the dogs would begin to salivate when
a door was opened for the researcher to feed them. The salivation response
demonstrated the basic principal of classical conditioning. A neutral stimulus,
such as opening a door, is associated with an upcoming event – in this case
being fed (known as the unconditional stimulus). This association is produced
via repetition, leading to a conditioned response of salivation. He continued
his research with other neutral stimuli which would otherwise be unlinked to
the recipient of food. These included tones produced by a buzzer, the ticking
of a metronome and electric shock. The dogs would demonstrate a similar
association between these events and food would follow.

A strength of Pavlov’s study is that is highly influential to
classical conditioning research today. Due to Pavlov’s work in dogs, research
has been produced on human classical conditioning, where bad behaviour
reduction in children has had high success rates. However, a weakness of
Pavlov’s study is due to his use of a restricted and isolated environment it
limits the ecological validity produced by the investigation and means that his
study can not be reflected in real life experiences. 


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