Key Approaches: the Social Learning Theory Debate

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“Outline and evaluate social learning theory. In your answer, make comparisons with at least one other approach in psychology.” – 12 marks Social learning theory states that behaviour is acquired through the observational learning from role models where a person identifies with that person and imitates their behaviour. This means that the behaviour of a model can influence the behaviour of all those that model the person and is particularly common with childhood celebrity role models. When a person identifies with the role model, the cognitive factors to the learning occur in 4 key stages; attention when the individual notices the action, retention as the person memorises the behaviour, judgement whereby the person is receptive to if they are able to imitate the behaviour themselves and motivation which is when the individual is reinforced whether directly or vicariously to repeat this behaviour based upon their own imitation of it and their confidence of success. So for example with motivation, if a child’s role model is a footballer who swears at another player and is sent off, vicarious reinforcement will occur and will dissuade the child from repeating this behaviour due to the negative consequences of it. When compared to the behaviourist approach which assumes behaviour lays between the stimulus and response and does not account for the mediating cognitive factors, social learning theory explains the cognitive factors involved in the process of learning behaviour and bridges the gap between traditional behaviourism and the cognitive approach. A study into the social learning theory was conducted by Bandura with his bobo doll experiment whereby he was investigating whether children would imitate behaviour based upon what they had witnessed being aggressive behaviour or non-aggressive behaviour towards the doll, as well as a control group whereby the child was left with the doll without an adult present. The results shown that in the presence of aggressive...
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