Social Learning theory (1960's)

  • Created by: lyds28
  • Created on: 07-03-19 10:05


  • Bridge between cognitive and behaviourist.
  • Still in behaviourist.
  • considers mental processes involved in learning. 
  • Mind - behaviour - environment/learning. 
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  • agrees much of behaviour is  learned from experience BUT Bandura believed that this didnt need to be just direct experience.
  • Learning occurs within a social context, so people learn from one another through observation and imitation
  • People can learn by observing the behavior of others (a MODEL) and the outcomes of those behaviours. 
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Vicarious Reinforcement

Reinforcement which is not directly experienced but occurs through observing someone else being reinforced for a behaviour. 

This is a key factor in imitation.

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The Role of Mediational Processes

Focussing on how cognitive factors are involved in learning. These mental factors mediate (intervene) in the learning process to determine whether a new response is acquired. 

Retention - The individual remembers what they have observed.

Motor Reproduction - The individual replicates the behaviour shown by the model.

Attention - The individual notices someone in their environment.

Motivation - Individual seeks to demonstarte the behaviour they have learned. 

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Bandura's Bobo Doll Study

  • 72 p's - children - half male, half female - between 3 + 6.
  • Split into3 groups:
    • 1 exposed to aggression towards doll.
    • 1 to non aggresive adults.
    • controlled - exposed to neither. 
    • Random allocation.
  • 2 experimental groups split by sex
    • girls watched females, boys male role models. 
    • Other groups - opp sex role model.
  • Each child - experiment by themselves - reduce demand characteristics. 
  • 1st room - Bobo doll = role model.
  • 2 - toys not allowed to play with
  • 3 - just child and Bobo.
  • IV - behaviour of models
  • DV - reaction of children.
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Bobo Doll Study Findings/Evaluation


  • Aggressive R.M - acted more aggressive
  • Non-aggressive R.M - ignored or played nice.
  • copied more with same sec role model. 
  • Children dont have to be directly affected to learn behaviours.
  • Follow up study - 4 months later - still showed same results - big implications. 


  • Strengths:
    • Continuity - each child exposed to same environment.
    • Random allocation
    • Replication (and subsequent studies). 
  • Limitations:
    • Setting was strange - exposed to unusual behaviour from adult model - artificial (demand characteristics).
    • Bobo dolls - designed to be hit - validity.
    • Ethics  - long term effects (also only a snapshot of behaviour).
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Evaluation of Social Learning Theory


  • Takes into consideration cognitive factors (thinking) unlike behaviourist.
  • Considers free-will because of mediational processes.
  • Explains cultural differences - observation and imitation of R.M.


  • Over-reliant on lab studies e.g. Bandura's study - artificial setting - demand characteristics.
  • Enderestimates role of biology - e.g. Bandura's study - testosterone could explain levels of aggression. 
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