The Social Learning Theory Approach

The basic assumptions of SLT, the stages of observational learning, factors that effect models & types of model, Bandura's Bobo Doll study & an evaluation of SLT/

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The Social Learning Theory Approach: Basic Assumpt

1)  Behaviour is learnt through observation & imitation.

2) There are four conditions to observational learning; Attention, Retention, Reproduction & Reinforcement. 

3) We imitate the behaviour of role models - people we identify with & desire to be like.

4) Learning can be a result of direct or vicarious (indirect) reinforcement

5) Learning involve mediating cognitive factors - thoughts in between the stimulus & the reaction; we see the behaviour, observe the consequences, remember them & decide later whether to imitate the behaviour.

Research Method: SLT normally uses experiments - laboratory controlled experiments with human participants - in this they used observational techniques to gather data.

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The Four Conditions of Observation Learning (ARRM)

Attention - the learner needs to pay attention to the behaviour

Retention - the learner needs to be able to record the behaviour to memory

Reproduction - the learner must have the ability to carry out the behaviour

Motivation - the consequences of carrying out the behaviour will decide whether the behaviour is carried out.

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Types of Model & Desired Characteristics of a Mode

Modelling - copying the behaviour of those we identify with

Identification - a desire to be like/imitate someone, a role model.

There are 2 types of model;

  • Live Models - who are physically present e.g. parents, celebrities, friends etc.
  • Symbolic Models - characters in films, books, TV shows etc.
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Influential Model Characteristics

The characteristics that influence us in models are;

  • Similarities to ourselves - age, gender, style etc.
  • Likeability - attractiveness, appropriateness of behaviour etc.
  • Status - high status people are more likely to be imitated.

Those with low self esteem are more likely to imitate behaviour.

Not all behaviour is modelled and not all models are imitated.

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Key Study: The Bobo Doll Study (Bandura et al. 196

Aim: To investigate whether aggression can be learnt through observational learning & if children are more likely to imitate same-sex models.

Method: A group of children aged 3-6 were split into 3 groups;

  • Group 1 were exposed to a model behaving in a non-aggressive way building tinker toys, 
  • Group 2 were exposed to an aggressive model who attacked & verballed abused a Bobo Doll
  • Group 3 were a control group who saw no models.

Half of each group saw a same-sex model, the other an opposite-sex model. All participants were deliberately annoyed & then took to a room to play with a range of toys, including a Bobo Doll. They were observed for 20 minutes through a one-way mirror.

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Key Study: The Bobo Doll Study (Bandura et al. 196


  • Children who were exposed to the aggressive model showed significantly more aggressive behaviour. 
  • Boys tended to show physical aggression more whereas girls showed more verbal aggression.
  • Boys were more likely to imitate same-sex models


  • Specific acts can be learnt through observation & imitation without reinforcement
  • Additionally, observers have a tendency to imitate same-sex models.
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Strengths of The Social Learning Theory Approach

  • Takes into account the cognitive processes involved in learning 
  • Uses both experimental & non-experimental (observational) methods of research
  • Applied to many areas of psychology & provides effective explanations of behaviour e.g. the acquisition of gender roles.
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Weaknesses of The Social Learning Theory Approach

  • Doesnt fully explain individual differences - what may be percieved as 'reinforcement' for one may not be for another.
  • Doesnt take into account all behaviour - such as criminals who havent observed criminal behaviour.
  • Doesnt take into account the roles of biology & genetics in behaviour.
  • Laboratory experiments are highly artificial - therefore they lack ecological validity & are difficult to adapt & generalise to everyday behaviour.
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Thank you for this! This will help me a great deal :)



Great Help:)Thanks dear,Cheers x

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