Social Learning Theory Psychology Essay Writing

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory was introduced by Albert Bandura in the year 1977 that explored the realms of conditioning as a condition and an operation. Through his theory, the behaviorist declared:

  1. Processes are the result of a certain stimuli and responses.
  2. Everything you learn is the product of your observation of the environment.

Observing For Social Learning

Grownups, adults and individuals are what form role models in the society for children to watch, observe and grow into. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the future generations are currently surrounded by individuals who possess wise and influential personalities to influence and steer the children in the right direction. This is the very reason why it is important that one controls the information children get at an early age from various sources, the most influential one being the television.

Whatever behavior the role model presents is the one that is ultimately imitated. If a male child grows to watch a father to be aggressive, then the chances of his adhering to aggression will be far higher than a child who had a relatively calmer parent. Similarly, it is very rare that an anti-social mother raises a child who is very social. Whatever behavior individuals with authority depict, the children imitate as their own.

This imitation is almost never consciously done but plays a vital role in how they end up behaving as full-grown adults themselves. There are some rules that apply to this theory, these are:

  1. It is more likely that children follow adults of the same sex. This is because they are more relatable and make more sense to the influential kid.
  2. How the child behaves is largely dependent on how the behavior of the adult is received by the environment around. If a father’s aggression is met with more aggression and eventually something far more painful, then the child might learn to stay away from it altogether. Therefore, on the basis of rewards and punishments, the understanding of the child is established.

Hence, the idea of social learning theory is a very important one. The children internalize and adhere to the behaviors that are being continuously demonstrated for and to them. Eventually, this behavior is adopted and imitated. However, during the Oedipus complex the child can only identify with the parent of the same sex, whereas with Social Learning Theory the person child hypothetically classifies with any other person.

Learning is a social process and we learn through interaction with others in our day to day life. Prior to 1960, theories of learning were heavily influenced by behaviorist and cognitivist theories. But Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that people learn from one another – via observation, imitation,

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and modeling. The social learning theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it includes attention, memory, and motivation.

As a result it is sometimes called social cognitive learning. While rooted in many of the basic concepts of traditional learning theory, Bandura believed that direct reinforcement could not account for all types of learning. His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people known as observational learning (or modeling). The social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of others. Thus it focuses on learning by observation and modeling. Social learning theory talks about how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior. It focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another.

In Social Context
Behavioral factors + Cognitive factors -> Social Learning

Meaning :
According to Albert Bandura (1977), “In social learning theory, behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.” Social learning is the process in which individuals observe the behavior of others and its consequences, and modify their own behavior accordingly.

Bandura’s theory of social learning : Basic Social Learning Concepts There are three core concepts at the heart of social learning theory.
1) Learning through observation
2) Intrinsic Reinforcement
3) Change in behavior is not necessary for learning
1) Learning through Observation (Observational Learning) :

In 1961, Bandura demonstrated the now-famous Bobo doll experiments. The Bobo doll is a child-sized inflatable doll with a weighted bottom that causes it to pop back up after being knocked down. In the first stage of these studies, preschool-aged children were divided into

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three groups: one group that observed an adult (model) behaving aggressively towards the Bobo doll (punching, kicking, striking with a mallet, yelling), another group that observed the adult playing peacefully, and a control group. Each participant viewed their assigned scenario individually.

Later, the child was allowed to play independently in the play room which contained a variety of aggressive and non-aggressive toys, including the Bobo doll. Participants’ acts of verbal and physical aggression toward the Bobo doll were then recorded. Results revealed significant group differences, such that children exposed to the aggressive model were more likely to imitate what they had seen and behave aggressively toward the doll. Bandura argued that the results supported that children could rapidly acquire novel behaviors through the process of observation and imitation, and this occurred even in the absence of any kind of reinforcement.

In a 1963, Bandura demonstrated that children imitated aggressive behavior witnessed on video, in addition to live observation, and children also imitated aggressive behaviors enacted by a cartoon character. (In his famous Bobo doll experiment, Bandura demonstrated that children learn and imitate behaviors they have observed in other people.

The children in Bandura’s studies observed an adult acting violently toward a Bobo doll. When the children were later allowed to play in a room with the Bobo doll, they began to imitate the aggressive actions they had previously observed.)

Social learning theory draws heavily on the concept of modeling, Bandura identified three types of models:

1) Live model : An actual person is demonstrating the desired behavior.

2) Verbal instructional Model : An individual explains and describes the desired behavior in details.

3) Symbolic Model : Modeling occurs by means of the media including movies, television, Internet, literature and radio.

Stimuli can be either real or fictional characters. Mental States are important to learning (Intrinsic Reinforcement) An additional study, published in 1965, showed that witnessing the model being punished for the aggressive behavior decreased the likelihood that children would imitate the behavior, a process he referred to as vicarious reinforcement. At the same time, Bandura noted that internal rewards such as pride, satisfaction, sense of accomplishment also influence the learning which he described as intrinsic reinforcement.

Learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behaviour : While behaviorist believed that learning led to a permanent change in behaviour, social learning demonstrates that people can learn new information without demonstrating new behaviours.

Key Principles of social learning theory :
1) Learning is not purely behavioral; rather, it is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context.

2) Learning can occur by observing a behavior and by observing the consequences of the behavior (vicarious reinforcement).

3) Learning involves observation, extraction of information from those observations, and making decisions about the performance of the behavior (observational learning or modeling). Thus, learning can occur without an observable change in behavior.

4) Reinforcement plays a role in learning but is not entirely responsible for learning.

5) The learner is not a passive recipient of information. Cognition, environment, and behavior all mutually influence each other (reciprocal determinism).

The Modeling Process :
Not all observed behaviors are effectively learned. Factors involving both the model and the learner can play a role in whether social learning is successful. Certain requirements and steps must also be followed. The following steps are involved in the observational learning and modeling process: 1) Attention: “I Never seen or thought this Before”

In order to learn, you need to be paying attention. Anything that detracts your attention is going to have a negative effect on observational learning. If the model interesting or there is a novel aspect to the situation, you are far more likely to dedicate your full attention to learning. 2)
Retention: “I Figured Out What I have to do”

The ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning. 3) Reproduction: “Why Not Do It? It Worked Out Fine for others” Once you have paid attention to the model and retained the information, it is time to actually perform the behavior you observed. Further practice of the learned behavior leads to improvement and skill advancement. 4) Motivation: “This action is giving me satisfaction”

Finally, in order for observational learning to be successful, you have to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled. Reinforcement and punishment play an important role in motivation. While experiencing these motivators can be highly effective, so can observing other experience some type of reinforcement or punishment. For example, if you see another student rewarded with extra credit for being to class on time, you might start to show up a few minutes early each day. Vicarious reinforcement – behavior is acceptable

Vicarious punishment – behavior is unacceptable
Learning by observation (models): students learn simply by observing other people. Modeling provides an alternative to shaping for teaching new behaviors. Instead of using shaping, which is operant conditioning, modeling can provide a faster, more efficient means for teaching new behavior. To promote effective modeling a teacher must make sure that the four essential conditions exist; attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivation. Cognition plays a role in learning

Learning can occur without change in behavior
Teachers and parents must model appropriate behaviors and take care that they don’t model inappropriate ones. Teachers should expose students to a variety of other models. Students must believe that they are capable of accomplishing school tasks. Teachers should help students set realistic
expectations for their academic accomplishments. Self-regulation techniques provide effective methods for improving behavior. Describing the consequences of behavior increases appropriate behavior and decreases inappropriate ones. Examples

Advertisements/TV commercials are the most common examples of Social Learning Theory. We observe (watch) them, and then copy them. Commercials suggest that drinking a certain beverage or using a particular shampoo will make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people. Depending upon the component processes involved (such as attention or motivation), we may model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised. Language learning is another common example of Social Learning Theory. A student tries to imitate or mimic his/her teacher while the teacher demonstrates.

Conclusion :

In addition to influencing other psychologists, Bandura’s social learning theory has had important implication in the field of education. The social learning theory proposed by Albert Bandura (1925) has become perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development. Today, both teachers and parents recognize the importance of modeling appropriate behaviors. Other classroom strategies such as encouraging children and building self-efficacy are also rooted in social learning theory.

Social learning theory posits that knowledge acquisition is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement. In addition to the observation of behavior, learning also occurs through the observation of rewards and punishments, a process known as of vicarious reinforcement.

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