Social learning theory


Key assumptions of the social learning theory of the acquisition of behaviour:

  • Behaviour is learned from experience within the social environment
  • Behaviour is learned from observing and imitating others and the presence of vicarious reinforcement/ punishment
  • Internal mental processes that lie between a stimulus and response, such as attention, perception and memory, are a crucial part of the acquisition of behaviour and should not be ignored


  • Bandura's focus was learning from others through imitation ans modelling, and from this he developed his social learning theory
  • Children watched an adult playing with some dolls, including a Bobo doll:
    • Half the children were exposed to an adult playing with the doll aggressively while the other half were exposed to an adult playing with the doll in a non-aggressive way
    • The aggressive model displayed both physically and verbally aggressive
    • The children in the aggression condition were much more likely to play aggressively with the doll compared to the other group, demonstarting the role of observational learning in the acquisition of behaviour

Bandura and Walters

  • Children were exposed to aggressive models and then split into three groups
  • 1 observed the aggressive model reinforced for behaviour to the doll
  • 2 observed the model punished…


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