In Social Learning Theory, Albert Bandura states behavior is leaned from the environment through the process of observational learning. Children observe the people around them behaving in various ways. He explains that individuals that are observed are called models, and in society children are surrounded by models; parents, characters on television, teachers at school. These models provide examples of certain behavior to observe and imitate. They pay attention to some of the models and encode their behavior, and eventually imitate the behavior they observed. The people around the child will respond to the behavior imitated with either reinforcement or punishment. Reinforcement can be positive or negative; a child will behave in a way, which it believes will earn approval because it desires approval.
Children will have a number of models to identify with; the motivation to identify with a particular model is that they have a quality, which the individual would like to possess. Identification occurs with another person and involves taking on observed behaviors, values, beliefs and attitudes of the person with whom you are identifying.
Bandura’s social learning theory indicates the effectiveness of human social models in influencing another to change behaviors, beliefs or attitudes, as well as social and cognitive functioning. The main principles in this theory include the highest level of observation learning is achieved by first organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and then enhancing it overly. Coding modeled behavior into words, labels or images results in better retention than simply observing. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes they value. Finally, individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the model is similar to the observer and has admired status and the behavior has functional value.