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Social learning theories are those which emphasize learning through

observation of others. The cognitive psychologists who appreciate the role of
observation in learning are termed as social psychologists and the theory of
learning they propagate is known as social learning theory.

These theories

emphasise the significant role played by social experiences to which children are
Albert Bandura and Richard Walters (1963) came out with an innovative
approach. They put forth that what an individual presents to the world at large as
his personality, is acquired through a continuous process of structuring and
restricting of experience, gathered by means of social learning and later imitated in
corresponding situations. According to Bandura and Walters, during early period
of child's life, besides maturation, imitation and social learning influence their
style of behaviour and performance in various walks of life.
Children pick up etiquette and attitudes by watching their parents and elders,
often mannerisms from popular actors and models whom they see on television or
in films. The imitations of models behaviour are further reinforced

in the

viewers mind by the reward or recognition that the model receives.

Bandura's theory of social learning can be explained under the following three
1) Reciprocal determinism
2) Self-system
3) Principles of observational learning
1) Reciprocal determinism
The Social learning theory Explains behaviour in terms of triadic, dynamic

and reciprocal interaction of the event, personal factors and behaviour. Some
sources of influences are stranger than other and that they do not all occur
simultaneously. In fact the interaction between the three factors will differ based
on the individual.

E = Environment
B= Behaviour

P = Person

The Person-Behaviour (P-B) interaction involves the bidirectional influence of

one's thoughts, emotions and biological properties and one's actions. A
bidirectional interaction also occurs between Environment and Personal
characteristics (E-P). In this process, human expectations, beliefs and cognitive
competence are developed and modified by the social influence and physical
structure within the environment. This social influence can convey information
and activate emotional reactions through such factors as modeling, instruction and
social persuasion.
The final interaction occurs between Behaviour and Environment (B-E).
Bandura says that people are both products and procedures of their environment.
A person's behaviour will determine the aspects of their environment to which they
are exposed and behaviour in turn modified by that environment.
2) Self system
In social learning theory, a self system is not a psychic agent that controls

Rather it refers to cognitive structures that provide reference

mechanism to set of functions for perception, evaluation and regulation of

bahviour. There are three components in self-system. They are self observation,

judgment process and self response.

Self Observation- We look at ourselves, our behaviour and keep tabs on it.
Judgement- We compare what we see with a standard. For example, we can
compare our performance with traditional standards, such as rules of table
manners'. Or we can compete with others, or with ourselves.
Self Response- If we did well in comparison with our standard, we give ourselves
rewarding self responses. If we did poorly you give ourselves punishing self
responses. These self responses can range from the obvious (treating ourselves to
a Sunday work) to the more covert (feelings of pride or shame).
Self Efficacy
A very important concept in psychology that can be understood with self
regulation is self efficacy. "It is one's belief about one's ability to perform
behaviours that should lead to expected outcomes". (Bandura, 1995). In other
words self efficacy is a person's belief his or her ability to succeed in a particular
situation. Since Bandura published his paper. Self Efficacy: Toward a unifying
theory of Behavioural Change", the subject has become one of the most studied
topics in psychology.
3) Principles of Observational Learning
Observational learning occurs when an organisms responding is influences by the
observation of others who are called models. In human culture novel behaviour is
very frequently acquired by observing the behaviour of others. Bandura maintains
that people's characteristics pattern of behaviour are shaped by the model that they
are exposed to. An observer attends and stores a mental representation of a model.
We observe our parents, teachers, members of our family and society and we try to
imitate it. So behaviour can be influenced by others.

To illustrate that people learn from watching others Bandura constructed an

experiment entitled Bobo Doll Behvaiour: A Study of Aggression.

In this

experiment Bandura exposed a group of children video featuring violent and

aggressive actions. For the experiment Bandura made of film of one of his
students, a young woman essentially beating up a bobo doll. Bobo doll is an
inflatable, egg-shape balloon creature with a weight in the bottom that makes it
bob back up when you knock him down.
The woman punched the clown, shouting sockeroo! She kicked it, sat on it,
hit with a little hammer and so on shouting various aggressive phrases. Bandura
showed this film to groups of Kindergartners who liked it a lot. Then they were let
out to play.

In the play room there were several observers with pens and

clipboards in hand, a brand new bobo doll, and a few little hammers.


observers recorded that a lot of little kids beat the daylights out of bobo doll. They
punched it and shouted "Sockeroo", kicked it, sat on it, hit it with the little
hammers, and so on. In short, they imitated the young lady in the film, and quite
precisely at that.
Model A model is a person whose behaviour is observed by others. At one time
or another everyone serves as a model for others. Bandura's key point is that many
response tendencies are the product of imitation. Learning through modeling
involves adding and subtracting from the observed behaviour and generalising
from one solution to another.

That is, modeling is not simply mimicry or

imitations. It is more than matching the actions of others; it involves symbolically

representation of others and storing it for use at a future time.
Factors influencing Modeling - A number of factors can influence modeling
(A) Stimulus properties of the Model- It includes

the model's age, sex and status relative to that of the subject are varied. .

High status models are more imitated.

Model's similarity to the subject- The sex of the models may influence the
behaviour of the male and female observers. Boys tended to show more
aggressive behaviour than girls after watching a female model, where as
girls tended to imitate the aggressive actions of a female model more often
than a male model. Observers imitate the bahaviour of competent model
more rapidly than those of an incompetent one. They tend to be more
strongly influenced by models who are similar to themselves in terms of
personal background and physical appearance.

(B) Types of behaviour exemplified by the Model Hostile of aggressive behaviour are imitated to a high degree.

The subject will adopt self reward standards similar to those of the model.

(c) Consequence of Model's behaviour- Rewarded behaviour of the models are

more likely to be imitated. Observers also tend to learn more of the behaviours of
the model, when the models are highly nurturing or rewarding and when they have
control over the future resources of the observers. We learn by observing the
behaviour of others and the occasions on which they are reinforced for their
actions and alter our behaviour accordingly.

Motivational set given to the subject:Instruction given to the subject before he observes the model provide him
with high or low motivation to pay attention to and learn the models

Motivating instructions may be given after the subject view the model and
before he is tested. This aids in distinguishing learning from performance
of imitative responses.

According to social learning theory models have a great impact on personality

development. Children learn to be assertive, self sufficient, dependable, easy
going and so forth by observing others behaving in these ways.
Process of Observational Learning
Observational learning is governed by four component processes.

Attention ProcessIf learning is observational, paying attention to model's behaviour is a critical

first step. Among the various attention determinants, associational patterns are
clearly of major importance. The people with whom are regularly associates either
through preference of imposition delimit the types of behaviour that will be
repeatedly observed and hence learned most thoroughly. Attention to models also
channeled by their interpersonal attraction.

Models who possess engaging

qualities are sought out, while those lacking pleasing characteristics are generally
ignored or rejected. Some forms of modeling are so intrinsically rewarding that
they hold the attention of people of all ages for extended periods.
II Retention ProcessThe ability to store information is also an important part of the learning
process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull
up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning. Thus we must
be able to retain and remember what we have paid attention to. This is where
imagery and language come in. We store what we have seen the model doing in
the form of mental images or verbal descriptions. When so stores, we can later
bring up the image or description, so that we can reproduce it with our own
III Motor Reproduction Process

The third component of modeling involves converting symbolic representation

in to appropriate actions. Behavioural reproduction is achieved by organising
one's response spatially and temporarily in accordance with the modeled patterns.
Bandura divides motor reproduction into (1) selecting and organising the response
elements (2) Refining the response on the basis of informative feedback.
IV Motivational Process
Observational learning is most effective when the learners are motivated to
perform the modeled behaviours. Attention and representation can lead to the
acquisition of learning but performance is facilitated by motivation to enact that
particular behaviour. Reinforcement and punishment play an important role in
motivation. While experiencing these motivators can be highly effective, one can
also observe other experiences such as some types of reinforcement or punishment
that others are being subjected to.

Unlike skinner, Bandura thinks of

reinforcement in broader manner. As a result he talks about direct reinforcement,

vicarious reinforcement and self administered reinforcement.
1. Direct Reinforcement
According to Bandura and Walters the most fundamental and significant
principle of social learning is the principle of reinforcement.

Most of our

behaviour in social situation are acquired through reinforcement. The scope of

responses acquired through reinforcement is unlimited. With appropriate
reinforcement imitative behaviour could be made to occur with a higher frequency
than before.
2. Vicarious Reinforcement
Bandura and Walters give special emphasis on this type of reinforcement.
Consider that a person observes the actions of another person who himself is
reinforced or punished for his/her actions, by a third person. Here the observer of

the model also gets reinforced along with the model by merely observing how the
latter is getting reinforced in the given situation. In other words the reinforcement
experienced by the model gets transferred to the observer. It enables humans to
perform patterns of behaviour quickly avoiding time consuming, trial and error, as
well as avoiding costly and even fatal mistake. Once symbols are formed and
stored in one's memory they must be converted into appropriate action for
modeling to occur.
3. Self Administered Reinforcement
According to Bandura and Walters self administered reinforcement also plays
a significant role in observational learning. In many situations the individual set a
standard for self-reinforcement. Both children and adolescents tend to adopt
standard of self-administered reinforcement, which matches the standards of the
models to which they have been exposed. Eg: A boy tells, If I do this math
assignment in time, I will treat myself with a cinema.
The theory of Bandura has been demonstrated to make powerful predictions
and has generated useful applications in a large number of areas of human