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Bull Menninger Clin. 2001 Summer;65(3):296-320.

Contingency perception and misperception in infancy: some potential implications for attachment.

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  • 1Department of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, USA.


A theoretical analysis is presented in which the four major attachment patterns (A, B, C, and D) are viewed as adaptations to particular forms of early contingency experience. The author proposes that human infants analyze contingency experience on the basis of two computations of conditional probability, one prospective and one retrospective. Ideally, when these computations do not agree, the direction of disagreement provides information as to how the infant should adjust effective behavior and/or how potential contingent consequences should be redefined. The author also proposes that the specific patterns of insecure attachment (A, C, and D) are a result of parental responsiveness that is by nature inconsistent or out of balance and that the infant interprets this imbalance as his or her misperception of a balanced contingency. The observed symptoms of attachment insecurity are seen as consistent with specific attempts by infants to adjust behavior and/or discrimination according to the direction of imbalance in conditional probabilities they have experienced in interactions with their caretakers.

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