Social Learning Theory (Psycology)

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There are several different theories that attempt to explain why people behave the way that they do. Many theories contend that the reason people act certain ways is because that is the way they have learned to act. One of these theories is Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. This theory states that the way people behave is dependent on what they observe others doing and the outcomes of others’ actions. I felt like this would be a good topic to choose because I am very interested in the different types of learning. I find the different theories associated with learning very interesting and also very applicable to everyday life. In this paper, I will discuss the other theories of learning, go into further detail about social learning theory, discuss Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment, discuss criticisms of Bandura’s social learning theory, and explain my own personal connection to the social learning theory. Theories of Learning

There is much to discuss about the theories that contend learning is the source of behaviors; however, because they are not the main focus of my paper, I will discuss them briefly. I merely want to give base information in order to compare against social learning theory. The two other main views on learning contend that people are conditioned to act certain ways. “Classical conditioning is the basic learning process that involves repeatedly pairing a neutral stimulus with a response-producing stimulus until the neutral stimulus elicits the same response,” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2010, p. 186). Basically, this means that if an action that elicits a natural reaction is paired with an action that does not cause a natural reaction for a long enough period of time, then the action that doesn’t cause a natural reaction will, in fact, cause the same natural reaction. The example of Ivan Pavlov and his dog will explain this theory with much more clarity. When a dog has food in his mouth, it salivates naturally. When a dog hears a bell ringing, it does not naturally salivate. In an experimental setting, Pavlov gave his dog food and every time he would do so, he would ring a bell. He did this for an extended period of time. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone would trigger salivation in the dog. Although it is not natural for the sound of a ringing bell to make a dog salivate, through this experiment the dog had learned to salivate upon the ringing of a bell. This is because the dog had learned to associate the sound of the bell with food. The other main theory of learning is called operant conditioning. “Operant Conditioning is the basic learning process that involves changing the probability that a response will be repeated by manipulating the consequences of that response,” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2010, p. 201). According to B.F. Skinner – the man who discovered operant conditioning – there are two broad consequences to a behavior: reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement causes a behavior to continue while punishment increases the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Either consequence can occur in a number of ways; however, no matter the form of the consequence, operant conditioning contends that behaviors are learned through the consequences of past actions and experiences. Social Learning Theory

The two theories of learning that I have just discussed emphasize direct experiences in learning and behaviors; however, these theories do not mention an extremely important cause of behaviors. Hockenbury & Hockenbury (2010) states that many behaviors are caused by observing the behaviors of others and then imitating those behaviors. In social learning (also called observational learning), learning takes place through observing the actions of others. Through research that has been done, it is clear that human brains are wired for imitation. Newborn infants have even shown signs of being able to imitate actions such as opening their mouth. If this is not enough evidence to...
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