Describe and evaluate animal studies into attachment
AIM: to investigate the mechanisms of imprinting, where the young follow
and form attachment to the first large, moving object they meet.
PROCEDURE: Clutch of eggs divided into 2 halves
Condition 1: left to hatch with mother (control group)
Condition 2: hatched in an incubator, first moving thing seen was Lorenz
RESULTS: Control group followed mother goose everywhere, and
Condition 2 followed Lorenz.
Lorenz marked goslings according to group and let them out together from an upturned box.
Each gosling went to its 'mother' figure-
Lorenz's goslings showed no recognition of
CONCLUSION: Lorenz's findings therefore prove that Imprinting is a key stage in attachment, as the goslings will
identify their mother figure in whoever they are first exposed to. His research also demonstrated that this can
only occur within a specific time period, verifying from species to species, known as the Critical Period.
VARIATION: Lorenz got gosling/ ducklings to imprint on intimate
objects (Wellington boots!)
CRITICAL PERIOD: L's other studies found that
strongest tendency was to imprint between 13-16
hours after hatching.
After 32 hours, imprinting tendency had
passed (no attachment occurs).
Supported by research evidence: e.g. Guilton (1966) showed that leghorn chickens could become imprinted on
rubber gloves when exposed to them for feeding in C. period. This supports view that animals are not born
with pre-disposition to imprint on a specific type of object, therefore incr. reliability of Lorenz's findings.
Important information gained: Lorenz's findings of a critical period influenced Bowlby's
idea of a critical period occurring in human infant attachment. For example, Bowlby
demonstrated that this stage of attachment was crucial and highly influential in overall
human development. Therefore, Lorenz's study was very important as its results could
be extrapolated to humans.
Generalizing from bird to human: his findings may improve understanding, but the mammalian attachment system is
different to that of birds. For example, mammalian mothers are more emotional in attachment , and mammals may
be able to attachment at any time! Therefore, the animal studies may be limited in their influence, as they lack
population validity. Should still seek confirmation from human testing...
Questionable conclusions: Lorenz concluded that imprinting had permanent consequences for later
mating behaviour (other study). However, Guiton et al (1966) found that although chickens tried to
mate with rubber gloves from feeding, with experience they would later change to their own
species. Suggests that impacts of imprinting are not permanent, therefore Lorenz may suffer low
AIM: to investigate the mechanisms by which newborn rhesus monkeys bond with their mothers.
PROCEDURE: 16 Rhesus monkeys were separated from their mothers immediately after
birth and reared in cages, with access to 2 surrogate mothers. Mother 1= wire and
Mother 2= cloth-covered. Half could get milk from Mother 1 (wire) and half could get
milk from Mother 2 (cloth). Monkeys the studied for various time spans.
RESULTS: Both groups spent more time with cloth monkey (even when no milk). Second group
would only go to wire mother for milk when hungry. Would then return to cloth mother after
feeding. (22hrs of day spent here).
When frightening object placed in cage, monkey took
refuge with cloth-covered mother.
Infant would only explore more in presence of cloth-covered mother.
Observed behavioural difference between those with wire mother and those
with real mother: 'adopted' monkeys = more TIMID, difficulty behaving
properly with other monkeys (AGGRESSIVE), difficulty MATING and
INADEQUATE MOTHERS (if female- sometimes kill offspring!)
This behaviour only found in those who were left with surrogate for +90 days.
For those less than 90 days, effects were reversible when in normal
environment (attach to actual monkey).
CONCLUSION: Food is not most important factor in attachment, "contact comfort" is. Maternal deprivation leads to
emotional damage, but is reversible if changes made within critical period (90 days). After 90 days, completely
Theoretical value: showed that feeding was not the only cause of attachment, shed light on concept of contact comfort
and demonstrated importance of quality of early relationships for social development. Therefore it had high int.
validity, proved what it sought to (that attachment is complex and fundamental).
Practical application: findings can be used to understand issues of child neglect, emphasising importance of social
work. Also used to better the care for monkeys in captivity, as they can be best served in zoos and breeding
programs. Therefore, high ecological validity.
Ethical issues: the treatment of the monkeys caused psychological harm. For example, they can be seen to show
discomfort in the videos, and were left emotional damaged without mother. Harlow even called wire monkey the
"iron maiden". Therefore it can be said that the study isn't completely just in its methods.
Monkeys and humans are different species, so its arguable that humans behave differently.
Example: monkeys are more primitive and develop at a faster rate. Therefore attachment may vary,
and the study lacks population validity.
However, monkeys and humans are closely linked physically and emotionally. Both are mammalian
and therefore their attachment is generally emotional. Arguably more valid than Lorenz's.