Today I am going to here https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/joseph-cornell . I’m very excited.
I had a few brain waves as I was trying to go to sleep last night, ideas for practical experimentation. This often happens but I have usually forgotten them in the morning. Knowing this I told myself I had to remember 3 things. Can I remember them this morning? No, only one of them. I will start to keep a notebook by my bed in future.
I can remember that one of the ideas was sparked by something said in my tutorial yesterday, that when you put 2 or more things together they create something bigger than the sum of their parts. Thinking about objects and memories and my interest in child development theories I was reminded of some research I did about attachment theories.
Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners.
British psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”
Bowlby was interested in understanding the separation anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregivers. Some of the earliest behavioral theories suggested that attachment was simply a learned behavior. These theories proposed that attachment was merely the result of feeding relationship between the child and the caregiver.
Because the caregiver feeds the child and provide nourishment, the child becomes attached these theories suggested.
What Bowlby observed that even feedings did not diminish the anxiety experienced by children when they were separated from their primary caregivers. Instead, he found that attachment was characterized by clear behavioral and motivation patterns. When children are frightened, they will seek proximity from their primary caregiver in order to receive both comfort and care.
What is Attachment?
Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. He suggested attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child’s chances of survival.
He viewed attachment as a product of evolutionary processes. While the behavioral theories of attachment suggested that attachment was a learned process, Bowlby and others proposed that children are born with an innate drive to form attachments with caregivers.
Throughout history, children who maintained proximity to an attachment figure were more likely to receive comfort and protection, and therefore more likely to survive to adulthood. Through the process of natural selection, a motivational system designed to regulate attachment emerged.
So what determines successful attachment? Behaviorists suggested that it was food that led to the formation of this attachment behavior, but Bowlby and others demonstrated that nurturance and responsiveness were the primary determinants of attachment.
The central theme of attachment theory is that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant’s needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.
I believe that my own over attachment to objects, toys in particular, are a result of me not being able to form bonds with my parents and caregivers in the first 3 years of my life. Harry Harlow’s infamous studies on maternal deprivation and social isolation during the 1950s and 1960s support my theory.
Maternal Deprivation Studies
Harry Harlow’s infamous studies on maternal deprivation and social isolation during the 1950s and 1960s also explored early bonds. In a series of experiments, Harlow demonstrated how such bonds emerge and the powerful impact they have on behavior and functioning. In one version of his experiment, newborn rhesus monkeys were separated from their birth mothers and reared by surrogate mothers. The infant monkeys were placed in cages with two wire monkey mothers. One of the wire monkeys held a bottle from which the infant monkey could obtain nourishment, while the other wire monkey was covered in a soft terry cloth.
While the infant monkeys would go to the wire mother to obtain food, they spend most of their days with the soft cloth mother. When frightened, the baby monkeys would turn to their cloth-covered mother for comfort and security.
Harlow’s work also demonstrated that early attachments were the result of receiving comfort and care from a caregiver rather than simply the result of being fed.
I have collected vintage fabrics for over 20 years. I find most of them in charity shops. I am particularly drawn to sheets from the 1970s. I have always loved my bed. Maybe it offered me what was lacking from people in my early years; safety, warmth, security. As I am interested in exploring the relationship between objects, space and the way that makes one feel I want to make a giant teddy bear out of vintage bedding.
I hope I’ll remember the other ideas at some point today.