Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 238
Working models/Bowlby/attachment theory/Shaver/Mikulincer: were originally formed in actual social situations. Bowlby (1982/1969)(1) argued that interactions with attachment figures are stored in at least two kinds of working models: representations of attachment figures’ responses (working models of others) and representations of the self’s lovability and competence (working models of self). He argued that, ‘If an individual is to draw up a plan to achieve a set-goal not only does he have to have some sort of working model of his environment, but he must have also some working knowledge of his own behavioural skills and potentialities’ (1982/1969(1), p. 112).


1. Bowlby, J. 1982. Attachment and loss, vol. I, Attachment, 2nd edn. New York: Basic Books (original edn 1969)

Phillip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer, “Attachment theory: I. Motivational, individual-differences and structural aspects”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press

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Upton I 57
Internal Working models/Bowlby/Upton: Bowlby (…) believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their carers have an impact that continues throughout life, through the development of an internal working model (IWM). The IWM is a central premise of attachment theory and is essentially a mental model of the self, the carer and the relationships between these two (Bowlby, 1969)(1). This internalised set of expectations about how relationships work is thought to influence the child’s responses to others, even in adulthood (Bretherton and Mulholland, 2009)(2). Therefore, a child whose IWM is based on maladaptive relationships is likely to repeat this pattern of behaviours throughout life.
It is important to note, however, that these relationship templates are not developed solely on the basis of interactions with one carer. Bowlby argued that contact with a greater variety of people with whom infants can form attachments could lead to a more fully developed IWM, which would help the child form relationships with a wide range of people later on in life. He also did not see the IWM as permanently and unalterably fixed during infancy, arguing that it can be modified as the infant develops new types of relationship.


1. Bowlby, J. (1969) Attachment and Loss: Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
2. Bretherton, I., & Mulholland, K. A. (1999/2009?). Internal working models in Attachment Relationships: An construct revised. In J. Cassidy, & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, Research, and clinical applications (pp. 89-111). New York: The Guilford Press.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Bowlby, John
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018

Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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