Albert Bandura “The Social Learning Theory”

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Biography Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura was born in a tiny town called Mundare located in Canada on December 4, 1925. Bandura was the only boy and the youngest of six children. After elementary and high school Bandura attended college at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver. Bandura stated “My parents encouraged me to expand my experiences… they essentially presented me with two options: I could either remain in Mundare, till the farmland, play pool and drink myself oblivion the beer parlor, or I might try to get a higher education. The latter option seemed more appealing to me” (Pajares, 2004). Bandura had no education until college; however, his family did put education first. His father made sure that Bandura learned three different languages; German, Russian, and Polish. As well as teaching his son various languages, Bandura’s father also served on the school board. In 1949 Bandura graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree and his Master’s Degree in 1951. Finally, in 1952 obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. After the completing o his doctoral degree, Bandura accepted an internship opportunity at the Wichita Guidance Center (Pajares, 2004). From here he went on and took a teaching position as a psychology professor at the University of Stanford. Throughout Bandura’s career, he has achieved a sufficient number of achievement awards and honors. In 1972, he won the Guggenheim Fellowship Award, in 1974 he was elected President of the America Psychological Association. In 1977 he came up with the Cognitive Theory and became known as the Father of the Cognitive Theory. Most significantly, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by US President Barack Obama. “He is the only social scientist to be given the award this year along with eight others from the fields of biology, ecology, and nanomaterials.” (E., R. 2016).

The Social Learning Theory

Bandura considered aggressive behavior, like other forms of social behavior, to be under the stimulus, reinforcement, and cognitive control. He concluded that individuals learn what behaviors and responses are appropriate and rewarding. Once individuals learn that aggressive behaviors are necessary, and it can be rewarding, they are more likely to choose aggressive actions in response to conflict situations (Drewes, 2008, p. 55). The social learning theory’s main point is overt behavior. This theory includes imitation or modeling behavior. This is a system in which individuals will mimic such actions they have observed, called observational learning.

Observational learning

Observational learning is a crucial component to the social learning theory. It has four major elements: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment is a great example to show how learning is developed through observation. The Bob doll is a three to four feet doll. Attention is the element of observational learning. It is the first condition that needs to take place before an individual can effectively imitate a model behavior. Through using the Bobo doll experiment, children used their attention to watch the Bobo doll being physically and verbally abused by different means of visual illustration. It is necessary that they can retain what they have visually seen and heard. The individual should pay attention to the models, once attention has been successfully achieved retention is next to be learned. Retention is the process in which the observer must be able to remember the behaviors that the models show. Bandura used repetition as a way to develop retention. Memory is a necessary means of cognition that helps to retrieve information. Children need to be able to retain them retrieve this information, so they can demonstrate what they had seen. In the Bobo doll experiment, the children imitated the physical and verbal abuse they had witnessed prior by the visual illustrations. Bandura stresses that the children repeated the aggressive behavior because it had been stored and encoded in their memory (Schultz & Schultz, 2009, p. 407). The third condition needed is called reproduction. At first, reproduced behaviors will not be precise and be considered clumsy. Translating imaginal and symbolic representations into overt behavior requires the production processes, described more simply as practice (Shultz & Schultz, 2009, p. 407). After the observer has mastered attention and retention, it is necessary for the observer to acquire the proficiency of reproducing the behavior previously modeled. Regarding the Bobo doll, the children did show the capabilities to be physically and verbally abusive to the doll. The last condition of observational learning is motivation, although it is not necessary. According to Bandura’s research, it showed that children watching a model on television imitate a model’s behavior regardless of whether they have been promised a reward (Shultz & Shultz, 2009, p. 408). The observer must want to imitate what had just been learned during this time the observer is expecting to receive positive reinforcement for the emulated behavior.

The difference in gender and culture

Using Bandura’s basic idea of learning through observation, gender and culture do not affect the outcome of the social learning theory about children. They may do this despite of whether the behavior is ‘gender appropriate’ or not, but several processes make it more likely that a child will reproduce the behavior that its society deems appropriate for its sex (Sammons, n.d., para. 1). It seems that individuals are more likely to imitate behaviors that the same gender models as themselves, regardless of age and gender. Cross-cultural findings that show variation in gender role between different cultures (e.g., Mead’s study of three tribes in Papua New Guinea) consist with the idea that gender role behavior is learned (Sammons, n.d., p. 7). It is found that there are universal gender role behaviors that occur regardless of the imitating behaviors, such as makes tend to be more aggressive than women. This is a common behavior no matter the subject. To conclude the effects of gender and culture is to say that the universal components advise various characteristics of gender roles are due not to the social learning theory but one’s genetic dominance, brain, and learning differences.

How personality develops through the Social Learning Theory?

The social learning theory is a significant for the development of the personality. One must take into consideration that all people are born into different cultures and raised with different morals and values. All of these aspects combined created one’s personality. It should also be remembered that personalities and characters can change over time due to continuous learning experiences. The social learning theory helps and affects the development of personal characteristics. If an individual has beneficial influences on the personality with watching, learning and imitating a model with negative impacts.

Changes in personality over the lifespan

Many changes over the lifespan can occur and alter one’s personality. Something or someone is always influencing people. There can be many unpredictable occurrences, such as career changes, marriages, and illness that alter an adult’s future. Bandura had a classic study that he conducted of snake phobia, Bandura and his associates eliminated an intense fear of snakes in adult subjects (Shultz & Shultz, 2009, p. 414). Using films and having the subjects examine the models on screen, they gradually overcame their fear of snakes. These modeling techniques can be used for many age ranged individuals, even though Bandura focused mainly on children. For the most part, Bandura does not discuss his social learning theory regarding adults, though he does not completely refer to children.

My personal thoughts

Looking at the social learning theory from my perspective of a mom, I agree with Bandura’s ideas. I have witnessed myself that children tend to do what they see. It reminds me of the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do.” I remember when I was younger, hearing my mother’s voice talking to my father in instances where she did not want him to act a certain way when my sisters and I were present. I do this with my husband and our child. Children typically learn by watching other people such as their parents, uncles, aunts, friends, siblings, teachers, etc. If they see someone performing a behavior and receive attention for it, it is highly likely they will, in fact, imitate it. I agree and approve Bandura’s four significant elements: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. These steps in cognition make sense to need for mimicking. I think that Bandura’s theory explains just a small part of personality. I do believe that there are many other components, but Bandura has developed an approach that evolves with our entire life. I believe that humans never stop with the stages of attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. As adults, we use this every in our everyday lives; we typically will always pay attention, remember it, reproduce it they receive reinforcement for it whether it is internally or externally. The only fault I see in that Bandura does not take into consideration genetic or biological factors. I use my nephew who has Asperger’s Syndrome as an example. He does have the cognitive ability to model behavior. However, he is not able to understand what he may be watching but can still physically imitate; this is due to his disability and impairment. Many other children suffer from learning disabilities which may prevent their ability to perform and produce all four elements needed to comply with Bandura’s theory. Overall, I agree with Bandura’s social learning theory.

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Albert Bandura "The Social Learning Theory". (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved June 19, 2024 , from

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