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Social Learning Theory

Definition: The Social Learning Theory is given by Albert Bandura, who believed that individual learns behavior by observing the others. Simply, by observing the other person’s behavior, attitude, and the outcome of that behavior, an individual learns how to behave in a given situation, depending on the consequences observed.

The social learning theory acts a bridge between the behavioral and cognitive theory, as it emphasizes the integrative nature of cognitive, behavioral and environmental determinants. This means social learning theory agrees with some part of behavioral and some part of cognitive theories. But however, Badura felt that these theories are not sufficient in explaining the elements therein fully and therefore, believed that learning can also take place via vicarious or modeling.

What is Vicarious or Modelling? The Vicarious or modeling is a process that essentially involves the observational learning. It is based on the assumption, that discrete stimulus-response consequences connections do not result in learning, but instead learning can take place through imitating the behaviors of others.

Bandura believed, that most of the behavior displayed by the individual are learned either deliberately or inadvertently through the influence of the model, a person who is being observed. Thus, a social learning theory asserts that learning takes place in two steps:

  1. The person observes how others behave and then forms a mental picture in his mind, along with the consequences of that behavior.
  2. The person behaves, what he has learned and see the consequences of it, if it is positive he will repeat the behavior or will not do it again, in case the consequence is negative.

The second point may be confused with the operant conditioning, but here an individual performs as per the mental image acquired by observing the others, instead of a discrete response-consequences connections in the acquisition of new behavior. Thus, modelling is one step ahead of the operant conditioning.

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