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Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify the main components of social learning, and how they influence personalities.

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Hello, class.

In today's lesson, we're going to be talking about social learning theory, which is an expansion on behavioral learning theories. The social learning theory says that there's more at work than just stimulus-response in reaction to different kinds of learning situations. We're not passive in this whole thing. Instead, there's something that's going on with us, and between us, that also affects learning, and personality as a result.

The important person to know is Albert Bandura, who's a psychologist, who in 1961-1963, performed the Bobo doll experiments. A Bobo doll is this inflatable clown that can be knocked down, and it'll pop back up. It's a toy that kids would play with. Now 72 children in these experiments were placed in different rooms, with toys inside of them. Some of those children had an adult who would come in with them, and play with them.

Some of these children and adults would also be in a situation where the adults would display aggressive behavior towards the Bobo doll. Which is to say, sometimes they would punch it, they would also hit it with a hammer, they would throw it. They would show lots of different aggressive behavior. And the kids in the rooms with these aggressive adults, we're more likely to show aggressive behavior towards the doll, after the adult left.

This is what Bandura called observational learning, which is learning about a behavior from watching another person model it. You don't have to do it yourself, to actually know how to do it. And also, what the kids did was called imitation, which is performing the same, or similar, behavior, observed in another person.

With the kids in the rooms with aggressive adults, the kids didn't just attack the doll in any kind of way. They performed the same actions that the adult did. They hit it with a hammer. They picked it up and threw it. It's the same way.

This influenced what Bandura called social learning theory, which is an approach to personality which incorporates behavioral learning theory, along with cognitive and social theories, as well. So all three of them are working in conjunction.

You can see in this instance, the social aspect. The imitation, and the observational learning, has an effect.

Under Bandura's social learning theory, the cognitive aspect also has an effect on the behavioral and social. There are three major areas we'll look at today to show the elements that are important to personality, and individual differences, in social learning theory.

The first is expectancy, which is a person's thoughts about a reward, or the effect of a behavior. If a person expects a reward to occur, that can influence whether a behavior is performed, or how it's performed. For example, with chores. If you offer somebody money for completing the chores, they're more likely to do it. And they also might be more, or sometimes less, likely to do a good job at the chores, depending on the amount of money, or the expectancy of money.

Another element is reinforcement value, which is the person's individual idea about the value of an activity, or the reinforcement that goes with it. Different people have different ideas about what's rewarding. For example, a sticker might be very rewarding for a small child, but if you try to give a sticker to a teenager, it's not going to get them to perform a behavior.

Internal reinforcement is also an aspect of this. People have different ways of motivating themselves, or reinforcing themselves. For example, some people might praise themselves, or they might find certain behaviors more rewarding than others. I might value studying, and I might think that's rewarding. So I place a lot of emphasis on that, whereas somebody else, like one of my children, might not necessarily think studying is very exciting.

And finally, we have self-efficacy, which is a person's belief that they can perform some task or action. And this belief can effect it. If a person thinks that they're likely to succeed, they are more likely to perform an action. For example, you're more likely to ask a person out on a date, if you think that you're going to succeed. You're less likely to do it if you think you're going to be rejected by that person.

So you can see, this interaction between all of them-- behavioral, social, and cognitive-- leads to different aspects of behavior, as well as aspects of our personality. So we need to examine all three of them, according to Bandura, to get a complete picture.

Notes for "Social Learning Theory"

Terms to Know

We learn to expect a response or a consequence following a behavior; from this, we learn to anticipate the response if we engage in a behavior.


Modeling or repeating behaviors we have seen others perform.

Reinforcement Value

Costs/benefits have different values depending upon the individuals.

Self Efficacy

Belief in our own ability to perform a behavior, that we are competent to accomplish specific tasks