The Social Learning Theory (slt)


Albert Bandura was a pioneer in Social Learning Theory (SLT). Bandura believed that behavior is learned from the environment through Observational Learning and mediating processes between stimuli and responses. This paper will give us a better understanding regarding Social Learning Theory (SLT). Part 1 will be explaining the history of SLT. Describing the key components of Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. It will also list and describe 2 other theories and concepts that are associated or related to the SLT. Part 2 will consist of events and how they exemplify social learning. In part 3 I will be writing about a personal experience where I’ve experienced social learning theory.

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Albert Bandura ‘Social Learning Theory’

“Learning would be exceeding laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior 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.” (Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977).

Social Learning Theory is a way of viewing how human development. It is the experiences and observations that children have which help them gain self-regulation. This theory sprang out of “behaviorism”, which was its own theory in the early 20th century. It was the theory put forth by John B. Watson. He felt that psychologists should focus on what they observed rather than the theory of psycho analysts like Erickson and Freud who put their emphasis on the unconscious. (Berger, 2016) Albert Bandura, who is considered a modern theorist, agrees with the behaviorist learning theories of classical conditioning and operant condition, but adds to them. He has two important ideas, “1. Mediating processes occur between stimuli and responses, and 2. Behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.” (McLeod, 2016) Meaning he believes one makes an association between behavior to the consequences that occur from the behavior.

Albert Bandura, born 1925, has four key components of his Social Learning Theory:


The extent to which we are exposed/notice the behavior. For a behavior to be imitated, it must grab our attention. We observe many behaviors daily, and many of these are not noteworthy. Attention is therefore extremely important in whether a behavior influences others imitating it.


How well the behavior is remembered. The behavior may be noticed but is it not always remembered which obviously prevents imitation. It is important therefore that a memory of the behavior is formed to be performed later by the observer.

Much of social learning is not immediate, so this process is especially vital in those cases. Even if the behavior is reproduced shortly after seeing it, there needs to be a memory to refer to.


This is the ability to perform the behavior that the model has just McLeod, S. demonstrated. We see much behavior on a daily basis that we would like to be able to imitate but that this not always possible. We are limited by our physical ability and for that reason, even if we wish to reproduce the behavior, we cannot.

This influences our decisions whether to try and imitate it or not. Imagine the scenario of a 90-year-old-lady who struggles to walk watching Dancing on Ice. She may appreciate that the skill is a desirable one, but she will not attempt to imitate it because she physically cannot do it.


The will to perform the behavior. The rewards and punishment that follow a behavior will be considered by the observer. If the perceived rewards outweigh the perceived costs (if there are any), then the behavior will be more likely to be imitated by the observer. If the vicarious reinforcement is not seen to be important enough to the observer, then they will not imitate the behavior. (McLeod, 2016)

Other theories and concepts that are associated or related to the SLT

There are two other theories that are related to the social learning theory, behaviorism model, and cognitive model. Behaviorism that’s also known as the learning theory, describes processes and laws on witch behavior is learned. Cognitive learning theory focuses on the way peoples’ way of thinking, changes over time.

All three theories are alike in the way that humans learn from infancy on, by observing the world around them. They differ in minute areas. Behaviorists feel that learners simply respond to their environment. Social Learning theorists feel that choices are made within the environment. Cognitive Theorists feel that the focus comes from cognition rather than the interplay of the person and their environment.

Personal experience where I’ve experienced social learning theory

Domestic violence- violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically violent abuse of a spouse or partner. Domestic violence can be many different forms: from the most commonly known, physical, to the more over-looked, financial, verbal, and emotional aspects. All are equally as psychologically damaging.

Ex. Mom being beaten by dad or boyfriend belittling his girlfriend in front of his peers.

Bullying- to intimidate a weaker person to make them do something. Again, this is as abusive as domestic violence, but it is between peers, work mates or school relations. It is when someone takes your power by forcing you to go against your will due to threats to your person, livelihood, or property.

Ex. Mom being told she is not good enough unless she dresses, or wears certain clothing, or turning on a hot shower in the locker room and forcing someone into it.

Within a household when a small child is observing the parents who are fighting and dad is hitting his mother, the child, according to social learning theory, will either see himself as the violator or the violated. This will depend on which parent he is identifying with at the time. If the father, he may become abusive. If the mother, he may become withdrawn and frightened.

Children who witness or are victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These can include mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. They may also include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, poor self-esteem, and other problems.” (Basile, Jones, & Smith, 2017)

“1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.” (“NCADV”, 2017) On the playground when one child pushes another child down and kicks them to make his/her peers laugh, he/she is bullying the other child. The effect on the bullied child is very harmful. It can cause the child to become “depressed, withdraw from others, want to run away, or even bringing a weapon to school.” (“Bullying Statistics”, 2017)

This has become a national problem and it carries a heavy price at times. The actions involved in a bullying situation cause mental health issues in the future for both the victim and the victimizer. “Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems than students who only bully or are only bullied” (Center for Disease Control, 2015).

My personal experience with domestic violence is very real. I gave birth to my oldest son at the young age of 15. His father was mentally & emotionally abusive to me. It’s sad to say but things got physical several times. I had to stand strong and tried my hardest to make the relationship work for my son. I was a baby myself and had no one to turn to. This was during the time where my son was beginning to interact with his surroundings. He was hearing name-calling and put-downs from his father. The man he looked up to so in his mind it was ok.

He was in the time of life where he was absorbing and taking in everything around him. He was trying to model others around him and unfortunately this is from both sides. He wanted to model me by being nurturing to a baby doll that he had, but then modeled his father and his “macho” attitude when around him. With that said, through raising my son in and out of the environment, I learned that some of these theories have a solid truth behind the young developing mind. 

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The Social Learning Theory (slt). (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved December 9, 2022 , from

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