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Social Learning Theory
The social learning theory was first introduced in 1963 by Albert Bandura. Bandura was influenced by
Gabriel Tarde's work on imitation and by Dollard and Millers work on aggression.
Albert Bandura proposed that there are four main stages in the social learning theory. The first
stage is attention and this is how much the child is concentrating on the role model. The second stage
is retention, this is where the child stores the behaviour they have witness in their memories. The
next stage is reproduction and is where the child copies the behaviour that the role model showed.
The final stage is motivation. This last stage is when the child finds a reason to show the behaviour
that they witness the model showing.
Bandura believes that one of the main influences of aggression is role models. This can be parents,
peers or even cartoon characters but if a child witnesses one of their role models showing violence
or abusive behaviour then they are likely to start showing similar behaviour. Bandura also found that
that if the role model is of the same sex as the child, then they will influence the child more than a
role model of the opposite sex.
Bandura also showed 3 different ways of encouraging, or discouraging violent behaviour. Vicarious
reinforcement is when a child witnesses a role model being violent and then being rewarded for
their violent behaviour. This then encourages the child to behave in a similar way to the role model.
Direct reinforcement is when it is the child themselves that are being rewarded or punished for
showing aggression. This then teaches them to either continue being aggressive or to stop showing
violent behaviour. Bandura's final statement is self efficacy, this is when a child has a certain level of
confidence that allows them to behave in a certain way and imitate their role model confidently.
Bobo Doll Study
Bandura looked at 72 children aged 3-6. There were equal numbers of boys and girls.
There was an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group consisted 24
children who were given an aggressive role model and 24 children who were given a non
aggressive role model. In each group 12 of the children had a role model of the same sex
and 12 had a role model of the opposite sex. Both groups went through the same
The experimenter, the child and the role model all went into the same room with some toys
in it. The experimenter left and the child and role model played with the toys. After around
10 minutes, the role model acted aggressively to the bobo doll. When the experimenter
returned, the child and experimented went into another room which had more and better
toys but the child was told that they were not allowed o play with the toys. They were then
taken back to the room with the bobo doll and Bandura observed how the child reacted.
There were some violent toys in the room and some non violent toys in the room for the child
to play with.
Found that those exposed to aggressive model were more likely to show physical
aggression than those that were not exposed to an aggressive role model. Boys exposed to
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Similar findings were concluded from the group of girls although they weren't
as drastic. He also found that those exposed to the aggressive role model were also more
verbally aggressive. It was concluded that children who observe role models believe that
they should act in a similar way to their model.…read more