15) Mary Ainsworth: Strange Situation Experiment

With Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation experiment, we enter a new decade in psychological studies, the 1970s. By this time, psychology had grown a lot over the last eight decades since the official start of psychology as an experimental field (by Wundt in 1879) to a diverse and greatly influential field of scientific study and inquiry. The numbers of classical studies started slowly decreasing due to the large and rapidly growing number of discoveries, concepts, studies and various phenomena applicable within their own sub-fields and schools. A few studies from this time that earned a landmark status and became classical studies in their own right, are Mischel’s Marshmallow Test (segment 16) along with Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment (segment 22).

Mary Ainsworth devised a procedure called the Strange Situation, which is today, a standardised way to measure the quality of attachment of a child to a caregiver.

The following reenactment shows the various reactions of a child while undergoing the experiment:

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