Psychology - Behaviourist approach - Social Learning Theory

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 06-05-15 15:21

Social Learning Theory (SLT)

Albert Bandura believed that agression could not be explained using traditional learning theory where only direct experience was seem as responsible for the acquisition of new behaviours. Social learning theory suggests that we also learn by observing others. This enables us to learn the specifics of aggressive behaviour (e.g. the forms it takes, how often it is enacted, the situations that produce it and the targets towards which it is directed). This is not to suggest that the role of biological factors is ignored in this theory, but rather that a person's biological make-up creates a potential for aggression, and it is the actual expression of aggression that is learned. Bandura et al classic study (1961) illustrates many of the important principles of this theory.


Children primarily learn their aggressive responses through observation - watching the behaviour of role models and then imitating that behaviour. Whereas Skinner's operant conditioning theory claimed that learning takes place through direct reinforcement, Bandura suggested that children learn just by observing role models with whom they identify, i.e. observational learning.

Children also observe and learn about the consequences of aggressive behaviour by watching other being reinforced or punished. This is called indirect or vicarious reinforcement. Children witness many examples of aggressive behaviour at home and at school, as well as on television and in films. By observing the consequences of aggressive behviour for those who use it, children gradually learn something about what is considered appropriate (and effective) conduct in the world around them. Thus they learn the behviours (through observation), and they also learn whether and when such behaviours are worth repeating (through vicarious reinforcement).

Mental representation

Bandura (1986) claimed that in order for social learning to take place, children must form mental representations of events in their social environment. They must also representations of events in their social environment. They must also represent possible rewards and punishments for their aggressive behaviour in terms of expectancies of future outcomes. When appropriate opportunities arise in the future, children will display the behaviour provided that the expectation of reward is…


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Behaviour resources »