Social Learning Theory - Approaches


Albert Bandura put forward the social learning theory. He argued that classical and operant conditioning could not account for all human learning - there are important mental processes that mediate between stimulus and response.

Basic assumptions of the social learning theory:

1) Much human behaviour is learned from observing and imitating other people's behaviour. We identify with a role model. Modelling is imitating the behaviour of this role model. 

2) Reinforcement may be indirect rather than direct (vicarious reinforcement). 

3) Mental or cognitive processes are essential for learning to take place. These are called mediational processes.

Basic assumption 1 - imitation, identification and modelling; 
People (especially children) are much more likely to imitate the behaviour of people with whom they identify, called role models. A person becomes a role model if they are seen to possess similar characteristics to the observer and/or are attractive and have high status. Typically same-sex parents and older siblings become the role model. 

Basic assumption 2 - vicarious reinforcement;
Bandura agreed with the behaviourists that much of our behaviour is learnt directly from experience. WE experience classical and operant conditioning. WE make the associations, WE experience the reinforcement, etc.. However, SLT also proposed a different way in which people learn. Bandura suggested that people learn through the observation and imitation of the behaviours of others and that reinforcement occurs indirectly. We observe the actions of others and see them being reinforced. We then learn from these vicarious reinforcements. We are more likely to imitate a behaviour which we've seen rewarded in someone else. 

S (stimulus) --> M (mediational processes) --> R (response)

So a child may observe a model behaving in a certain way. But mediating factors may be at play which affect whether or not the child will carry out the response. And so the response may be to…


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