Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bandura & Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s social learning theory is sometimes seen as a bridge between cognitive and behavioral theories because he believed that people learn by observing others, which involves cognition (memory, attitude, beliefs) and behavior (actions taken, rewards).  He posited that children learn by observing the actions of others, such as parents, siblings & other peers.  This observation leads to the acquisition of new skills & information.  Intrinsic reinforcements such as a sense of pride, accomplishment & satisfaction also lead to learning.

Bandura developed this theory in part by conducting what was called the Bobo doll experiment.  Here, a video is work a thousand words:  Basically, Bandura found that kids who watched a video of an adult aggressing upon an inflatable doll would in turn aggress upon a similar doll.  Bandura’s research primarily concentrated on the impact of TV violence on children’s behaviors.

Bandura thought that four processes were necessary for the child or other observer to learn a behavior via social modeling.
  • Attention: Obviously you have to be paying attention to what the other people are doing to learn anything from it.  If I’m ignoring the people on the dance floor, I’m not going to learn to dance just by standing close by.
  • Retention: You have to remember the stimuli to imitate later.
  • Reproduction: This is when you reproduce the image of what you observed.  You have to have the physical capability to do so.
  • Motivation: There has to be some reason that you want to recreate what you observed.  Some reasons might be positive reinforcement (a reward, a promise of a reward) or a negative reinforcement (punishment of some kind).

The main critique of Bandura’s theory is that it does not reliably predict behavior.  In his experiments, the relationship between observing & recreating violence was strong.  In later longitudinal studies, the relationship was much weaker.

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