Department of Psychology

70 Years of Attachment Research: A Multidisciplinary Social Neuroscience Perspective

Join us for this unique virtual conference on 12-13 August 2020

Almost 70 years have passed since Bowlby’s first observations leading to the formulation of attachment theory. This virtual conference workshop aims at discussing what has happened over the last 70 years in attachment theory and research – with a special focus on social neuroscience – and to formulate major future avenues in the light of current debates within the field.

We are pleased to invite you to our virtual conference workshop with the title “70 Years of Attachment Research: A Multidisciplinary Social Neuroscience Perspective”.

The workshop is part of ongoing activities of the Special Interest Research Group (SIRG) on The Social Neuroscience of Human Attachment (SoNeAt) as part of the Society for Emotion and Attachment Studies (SEAS), co-hosted by SoNeAt coordinating board president Pascal Vrtička (University of Essex, UK). It is being organised in cooperation with Tsachi Ein-Dor (IDC Herzliya, Israel), PI of a new longitudinal and multidisciplinary venture called Project Alpha, investigating the genetic and epigenetic underpinnings of psychological development, comprising parent-child attachment.

The conference workshop will be held over zoom and organised within the time zones of British Summer Time (BST, UTC +1) and Israel Daylight Time (IDT, UTC +3).

In our workshop, we are bringing together experts from various fields of attachment around the globe, providing insights into the last 70 years of theory development and research, with a special focus on social neuroscience.

Conference Features:

  • 8 Keynotes by experts within the field
  • 10 plenary oral presentations by early career researchers
  • Nearly 20 posters by early career researchers
  • Recording of keynotes & plenary oral presentations for asynchronous viewing
  • Virtual socialising

All keynotes and as many plenary oral presentations by early career researchers as possible will be recorded and made available to registered participants for asynchronous viewing.

For timely information, please follow the SIRG SoNeAt on Twitter (@SIRG_SoNeAt). Information pertaining to the virtual workshop will be marked by #SoNeAt_Workshop2020.


Submitting papers and registration

Key Dates

  • Submission opens: 1st June 2020 - now closed.
  • Submission closes: 30th June 2020 - now closed.
  • Notification of acceptance: 15th July 2020
  • Registration opens: 1st June 2020
  • Registration closes: 31st July 2020
  • Workshop: 12th - 13th August 2020


Registration will be free of charge for accepted poster presenters (presenting authors only). For all remaining attendants, the following fees will apply:

  • SEAS Members: free
  • Non-SEAS Members: EUR 10,00

To register, please email with your name and academic affiliation or information about your profession as well as SEAS membership status.

Upon acceptance, you will receive a link to the payment website, if applicable. Once payment has been processed, you will receive the zoom meeting link. Please keep this link confidential to prevent undesired interruption during the workshop.

Preliminary schedule

Our workshop will take place over two days, with a selection of keynote speakers, and oral and poster presentations by early career researchers across both days.

To find out more about the daily schedules and keynotes please see below, or download our preliminary schedule document (.PDF) which includes more information about the oral presentations and poster sessions.

Wednesday 12 August

9:00am – 9:15am BST (11:00am – 11:15am IDT)

  • Welcome & Introduction Day 1: Tsachi Ein-Dor & Pascal Vrtička

9:15am – 10:15am BST (11:15am – 12:15pm IDT)

  • Keynote 1: Mario Mikulincer

10:15am – 10:45am BST (12:15pm – 12:45pm IDT)

  • Coffee Break

10:45am – 11:45am BST (12:45pm – 13:45pm IDT)

  • Keynote 2: Pascal Vrtička

11:45am – 1:00pm BST (1:45pm – 3:00pm IDT)

  • Plenary Oral Presentation Session 1: Talks A - E

1:00pm – 2:00pm BST (3:00pm – 4:00pm IDT)

  • Lunch break

2:00pm – 3:00pm BST (4:00pm – 5:00pm IDT)

  • Keynote 3: Ashley Groh

3:00pm – 4:00pm BST (5:00pm – 6:00pm IDT)

  • Keynote 4: Kristin Bernard

4:00pm – 4:15pm BST (6:00pm – 6:15pm IDT)

  • Concluding Remarks Day 1: Tsachi Ein-Dor & Pascal Vrticka

4:15pm – 4:30pm BST (6:15pm – 6:30pm IDT)

  • Coffee Break

4:30pm – 5:30pm BST (6:30pm – 7:30pm IDT)

  • Virtual Poster Room Presentations 1: Posters 01 - 10

Thursday 13 August 2020

9:00am – 9:15am BST (11:00am – 11:15am IDT)

  • Welcome & Introduction Day 2: Tsachi Ein-Dor & Pascal Vrticka

9:15am – 10:15am BST (11:15am – 12:15pm IDT)

  • Keynote 5: Anne Rifkin Graboi

10:15am – 10:45am BST (12:15pm – 12:45pm)

  • Coffee Break

10:45am – 11:45am BST (12:45pm – 1:45pm IDT)

  • Keynote 6: Tsachi Ein-Dor

11:45am – 1:00pm BST (1:45pm – 3:00pm IDT)

  • Plenary Oral Presentation Session 2: Talks F - J

1:00pm – 2:00pm BST (3:00pm – 4:00pm IDT)

  • Lunch break

2:00pm – 3:00pm BST (4:00pm – 5:00pm IDT)

  • Keynote 7: Nicole Letourneau & Sarah Merrill

3:00pm – 4:00pm BST (5:00pm – 6:00pm IDT)

  • Keynote 8: Cheri Marmarosh

4:00pm – 4:15pm BST (6:00pm – 6:15pm IDT)

  • Concluding Remarks Day 2 - Tsachi Ein-Dor & Pascal Vrticka

4:15pm – 4:30pm BST (6:15pm – 6:30pm IDT)

  • Coffee Break

4:30pm – 5:30pm BST (6:30pm – 7:30pm IDT)

  • Virtual Poster Room Presentations 2: Posters 11 – 20


Keynote 1

Professor Mario Mikulincer

Professor of Psychology

Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) (Israel)

Talk title: Attachment Theory as a conceptual framework for studying species-universal and individual-differences aspects of the social mind

Professor Mikulincer's talk abstract

In this lecture, I present the core construct in attachment theory – behavioural system – and evaluates its usefulness for studying species-universal and individual-differences aspects of social motives, cognitions, and behaviours and understanding the evolutionary basis of social behaviour, interpersonal relations, and group processes.

I begin by explaining the behavioural systems construct, including its evolutionary basis and its species-universal and individual-differences aspects, which interact with social situations to shape social behaviour.

Next, I discuss the behavioural systems studied to date: attachment, exploration, caregiving, sex, and power, while trying to understand their dynamic interplay in shaping personality and social behaviour.

I place more emphasis on the attachment system than on the other behavioural systems because it has received more research attention, but I also summarise new research related to the other behavioural systems.

Keynote 2

Dr Vrticka's abstract

In 1992, John Cacioppo and Gary Berntson for the first time described social neuroscience as a new field at the interface of (social) psychology and neurobiology with the aim of revealing the biological and particularly neural underpinnings of human social behaviour.

Already in the first description of social neuroscience, mother-infant attachment and early childhood experiences were mentioned as core constituents of human social behaviour, which highlights the intrinsic connection of social neuroscience with attachment theory.

The above said, most social neuroscience investigations into human interactions and relationships have so far only indirectly referred to attachment theory. Consequently, there has been a lack of a comprehensive framework of the social neuroscience of human attachment.

Building upon first considerations published in 2012, we recently proposed a refined functional neuro-anatomical model of human attachment (NAMA), and are currently extending it to disrupted/disorganised attachment (NAMDA).

In the first part of my talk, I will describe the underlying considerations and most consistent predictions emerging from NAMA and NAMDA.

In the second part of my talk, I will show that social neuroscience is presently undergoing an important transition from first- to second-person paradigms emphasising the need to investigate interpersonal processes during direct social interaction. I will provide concrete examples of this transition by presenting new findings from our own functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyper-scanning studies looking at bio-behavioural synchrony and inter-brain coherence in parents and their young children.

Altogether, I hope that my talk will illustrate how a better conceptualisation of attachment processes by means of NAMA and NAMDA and the addition of second-person paradigms can advance attachment theory and research within the 21st century.

Dr Groh's abstract

There has been a rapid increase in research on the neurobiological correlates of attachment.

Indeed, this growing body of research has resulted in additional chapters to the Handbook of Attachment specifically dedicated to the neuroscience of attachment (Coan, 2008, 2016; Ehrlich et al., 2016; Fox & Hane, 2008; Hane & Fox, 2016).

Given the centrality of parent-child relationships to attachment, it is perhaps no surprise that the significance of adult attachment for neurobiological responding integral to parent-child relationships figures prominently in this literature.

In this talk, I will present findings from my research that have provided evidence for the role of the legacy of attachment-relevant experiences as reflected in parents’ representations of attachment in contributing to the neurobiology of parenting. Specifically, presented findings from several studies will provide evidence that parents’ attachment representations contribute to their central (EEG, ERP) and peripheral autonomic (SCL, RSA) physiological responding to infant stimuli and while interacting with their infant.

Findings across studies provide insight into potential underlying mechanisms by which parents’ attachment representations contribute to parenting behaviour and the quality of parent-child attachment. Further, findings will be discussed in relation to the strengths and limitations of neurobiological methods and how they might be successfully leveraged to advance attachment research.

Dr Bernard's abstract

Children who experience early adversity, such as neglect, abuse, and disruptions in care, are at high risk for later problems across socioemotional, behavioural, and physical health domains.

Importantly, sensitive parenting can buffer children from maladaptive outcomes by protecting against neurobiological consequences of early adversity.

This talk will explore how early life stress influences children’s neurobiological development and how optimal care-giving and preventative interventions may buffer at-risk children from problematic outcomes.

Specifically, several studies will be presented that examine

  1. the effects of early adversity on children’s neurobiology
  2. the protective role of responsive care-giving for children living in chronically challenging conditions
  3. the effectiveness of an attachment-based parenting program for children at risk for maltreatment.

Together, findings from these studies highlight the importance of translational, inter-disciplinary research for identifying and serving the needs of children who face early adversity.

Dr Rifkin-Graboi's abstract

Attachment theory has always been the product of cross disciplinary thinking, influenced by biological research.

Yet, only within the last decade have we really begun to investigate the neural precursors, correlates, and consequences of parenting and attachment.

In this talk I will review a selection of imaging findings and discuss what they do and do not tell us. This talk will also consider whether such investigations have practical value to fields like psychiatry and education, over and above their basic contribution to scientific knowledge.

Professor Ein-Dor's abstract

The most prominent psychological theory and research field on the development and maintenance of our social mind is Bowlby’s attachment theory (Bowlby, 1982).

According to attachment theory, different nurturing environments prime the development of distinct, albeit adaptive, personality-like dispositions that in turn associate with various social tendencies such as the need for closeness, caring, helping others, and regulating emotions.

Although psychological research provides rich and insightful understanding of attachment patterns, most of the individual differences in these patterns (i.e. variance between people) remain unexplained by nurture alone. A decade and a half ago, animal models began exploring the possible genetic and epigenetic makeup of early development and its effect on attachment and sociability.

In my talk, I will present the genetic and epigenetic research on attachment patterns and discuss the possibilities and challenges of these lines of research.

Professor Letourneau and Dr Merrill's abstract

A central proposition of Bowlby’s ethological attachment theory is that attachment is integral to human behaviour throughout the lifespan, “from the cradle to the grave”.

Similarly, our current understanding of DNA methylation (DNAm) is also one of biological programming and predisposition through the developmental origins of early life environments.

As of yet, there is a dearth of explorations into the potential biological embedding of environments related to attachment and no studies examining this relationship before a behavioural attachment pattern is assessed. Therefore, we analysed the association between DNAm and eventual attachment pattern in the attachment-in-the-making phase of early life.

Findings demonstrate association between DNAm at 3 months in peripheral tissue and later attachment pattern. Moreover, the identified links between CpG sites and attachment pattern suggest a potential pathway to explain the compromised immune function and mental health challenges that present in children and adults with insecure or disorganised attachment patterns.

Dr Marmarosh's abstract

Dr. Marmarosh will present contemporary theory and empirical research demonstrating how patient attachment styles influence treatment in both individual and group psychotherapy. She will explore how treatment influences changes in attachment including changes in the brain.She will also address how therapist/leader attachment influences the therapy process.

Clinical examples will be used to bring the theory and research to life. Audience participation is encouraged and time will be allotted to ask questions and discuss the presentation.

A blue logo on a white background for the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology.
A logo showing the word "Project" with a green "P", and an alpha made up of blue dots. The words "epigenetic research" are under "Project".
The words "Society for Emotion and Attachment Studies" are listed vertically on the left. On the right is an abstract image in blue and grey with a photo of an elderly couple over the top.
On the left is an image of a brain over a multicoloured heart shape. On the right the words "Special ‌Interest Research Group", "SoNeAt" and "Social Neuroscience of Human Attachment" are in black and red text.