Introduction to Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory
Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura proposed one of the most influential theories of learning and development – the ‘social learning theory’ (Bandura, 2007, p.69). Bandura stated that “most human behaviour is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977). The incorporated social aspect of this theory is known as “observational learning (or modeling)” as people have the ability to learn by simply watching others (Social Learning Theory: Understanding Bandura's Theory of Learning, n.d.). Found within the social learning theory lies three main concepts. First, as previously mentioned is the notion that individuals have the ability to learn through observation, second- that mental states are a fundamental part of this process and thirdly, the theory alleges that when something is learned this does not always follow by a change in behaviour. As external, environmental reinforcement was not the only influence to learning and behaviour, intrinsic reinforcement was also considered to play a part in forming the learned response of an individual. As it is perceived as a form of “internal reward”, such examples include “pride, satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment” (Social Learning Theory: Understanding Bandura's Theory of Learning, n.d.). It is evident that internal thoughts and cognitions assist to connect learning theories with cognitive developmental theories. Bandura suggested that his concept surrounding the social learning theory could be considered as a “social cognitive theory” (Social Learning Theory: Understanding Bandura's Theory of Learning, n.d.). Observational learning considers that individuals are able to learn without demonstrating new behaviors. Yet it is suggested that not all observed behaviors are learned adequately. Specific factors influence the success of learning and it is the following steps that determine the observational learning and modeling process:
For behaviors to be successfully learned, the individual must pay sufficient attention.
Storing this information so that it may be used at a later date is crucial to the observational learning process.
Following attention and retention comes the time to reproduce the observed behaviour. Practice of this behaviour assists with the improvement of skills.
The individual must be motivated to repeat the learned behaviour. Reinforcement and punishment influence assist to influence this step as it acts to either encourage or deter the individual from having the motivation to repeat the modeled behaviour.
Kaplan’s experiment (1972) shows a similar association to Bandura as the experiment focuses on “the effects of vicarious reinforcement and model’s behaviour on subjects’ imitation of the model’s performance and learning to give critical responses” (p. 448).