The Social Learning Theory


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  • Created on: 15-05-12 15:28
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The Social Learning Theory (social psychological theory)
The Social Learning Theory (SLT) was devised by Banduro who said that we learn through
observing others.
Observation ­ Watching the behaviour of those around us. We pay attention to people we
look up to i.e. Role Models.
Role Models ­ Someone that we looks up to ­ their behaviour matters to us and therefore we
pay attention to it such as our parents, peers and the media.
Imitate ­ Sometimes we just copy what we see and other times we observe the consequences
of other people's actions before we act on what we see.
Vicarious Reinforcement ­ this is observing and learning from the consequences of other
people's actions. If they receive positive reinforcement for their actions, we will be more likely
to imitate it (e.g. hitting someone to get a ball). If they receive negative reinforcement for their
actions, we will be less likely to imitate their behaviour (hitting someone and they get hit back
and do not get the ball)
Mental Representation ­ this is where you form a mental image of what you have observed
(e.g. hitting the other child and then getting the ball).
Expectancy of Future Outcome ­ The mental representation is used to make a decision about
what would happen to you if you imitated the behaviour (if I hit someone who has what I want
I will get it)
Imitation ­ copy the action for yourself
Direct Reinforcement ­ this is what happens when the action is imitated. Positive
reinforcement means you are rewarded for your actions (you get the ball and are likely to
repeat the action). Negative reinforcement means you are punished for your actions (teacher
sees you and you are not allowed any playtime for a week) and are therefore less likely to
repeat the action.
Self Efficacy ­ if you are successful at imitating the action you will build up a view that you are
good at this action and keep doing it. However, if you are unsuccessful you will build up a view
that you are not good at this action and you will stop doing it.
Evaluating the Theory
It is used to describe many facets (factors/types) of behaviours ­ it is generalisable to other
behaviours and shows some truth that we observe other peoples behaviours to learn.
It allows us to explain individual and cultural differences because you observe different
behaviours depending on where you live.
There is research to support the SLT, carried out by Banduro called the `Bobo Doll' study. He
conducted three experiments:
1. `Monkey See, Monkey Do' ­ this showed that children do acquire aggressive responses as
a result of watching others, which supports the SLT but doesn't tell us anything about why
a child would be motivated to perform those behaviours.
2. `Vicarious Reinforcement' ­ the study found that how the children acted with the doll was
influence by which ever film ending they saw. Those who had seen the model being
rewarded for aggressive acts showed a high level of aggression in their own play. Supports
the idea of vicarious reinforcement.

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Role of Reinforcement' ­ showed that learning does take place regardless of
reinforcements but that how the behaviour is produced is related to selective reinforcement.
However there are issues with these studies that were carried out:
Ethical issues because children were used
Demand characteristics ­ they knew they were in an experiment, low ecological validity
Culture bias ­ some cultures value aggression more
Bobo dolls are not real, therefore lower validity.…read more


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