Have you ever thought about why do people retain some information in their memory and forget other information? What are those factors that influence us to focus on some specific information and learn various phenomena around us? The process of learning is affected by several factors, hence it is a complex phenomenon to explain. There are different theories proposed by the theorists that try to explain the phenomenon that how and why do people learn. Many theorists argue that people learn about new things through direct involvement or interaction with that thing. But, Albert Bandura proposed that people learn through observation, and then apply the insight gained from the observation in reality. Here in this article, we’ll learn about Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, and various real-life examples based on this theory.
What is Social Learning Theory?
The social learning theory emphasises that people learn through observation and then imitating the observed behaviour. Social learning theory can be considered an amalgam of the cognitive learning theory and the behavioural learning theory. According to the cognitive learning theory, learning depends upon various psychological factors, while according to the behavioural learning theory, learning depends upon how an individual responds to the various stimuli in his/her surroundings. Hence, according to the social learning theory, the learning of a person is influenced by the interaction of cognitive, behavioural and environmental factors.
Components of Social Learning Theory
According to social learning theory, the different steps of learning includes, observing others, imitating the observed behaviour, and modelling. Let us discuss these components of learning.
Observation is the fundamental step of the social learning theory. Albert bandura’s Bobo doll experiment is a popular experiment that demonstrated that children learn by observing the behaviour of other people. In this experiment, children were shown that a person was demonstrating aggressive behaviour towards a bobo doll. Later, children were provided with a bobo doll to play with, and it was observed that the children showed similar aggressive behaviour towards the bobo doll as the person showed. This can be generally seen in the homes, that children learn through observing the behaviour of their parents or the other family members. They observe the consequences of certain actions performed by the other and then choose to learn specific behaviour based on the consequences of the action performed. In this manner, the person gets aware of the type of behaviour that is accepted or criticized by society. Also, learning through observation does not necessarily mean that one needs to watch other people, other factors such as reading or listening to others can also influence learning.
Assessment and Imitation
After observations, assessment of the observed behaviour is the next step. People assess whether the behaviour they have observed is in accordance with their personality or not, and whether the behaviour is desirable or not. Imitating the observed behaviour depends upon the choice of the person, which is eventually based on the physical traits, experiences and characteristics of the person. Several factors such as opinions of the other person, personal character, experiences, time or place can play a crucial role in influencing the decisions of the person to imitate the learned behaviour or not. Behaviour becomes a habit after the several constant positive feedbacks for that particular behaviour, however, even a little criticism can restrict the person from imitating that behaviour in future.
Identification and Modeling
The identification step includes internalising the ideas or behaviour of the others. Imitation is associated with only a single aspect, i.e., imitation only a specific behaviour but the term identification refers to internalising several learned behaviours. According to Albert Bandura, people do not directly imitate the observed behaviour of the model (person), instead, there is a number of thought processes that occurs before the imitation, and these considerations before the imitation are known as the mediational processes. The four meditational processes of learning are Awareness, Retention, Reproduction, and Motivation.
For learning, attention or awareness is a crucial step because distraction can lower the quality of learning. It is commonly seen that we notice some specific thing or information that looks different from its surroundings, i.e., the unique situations or events easily grab our attention. The person tends to pay more attention and eagerly learn the things in which he/she is more interesting. This is the reason that a person does not easily give up the learning even facing a number of difficulties if he/she is interested in that event.
Retention is the next key factor in learning after the awareness. The person can imitate certain behaviour only if he/she remembers it. Observation is not the only factor that encourages the person to imitate the behaviour; the ability to recall the learned behaviour or information is also very important. We all must had face the situation of forgetting what we learnt in the examination hall, at least once. People retain the learnt information through various techniques such as writing it down, repeating the learned information, or mnemonic. Another best way to retain the information is by applying it in reality.
The reproduction step includes repeating the learned behaviour as it helps in improving the skills. Even if the person has retained any specific behaviour, the ability to perform that behaviour is also important. One can not imitate every behaviour, as every person has his/her own limitations of mental or physical ability. For example, an eighty years old person may appreciate the stunts performed by the gymnast, but the person can not imitate them even after a lot of practice due to his/her physical limitations.
To successfully learn anything, one needs to have the motivation of imitating the observed behaviour. Two factors that influence the motivation of the person are punishment and reinforcement. If an individual sees that he/she is being rewarded for certain behaviour he/she is more likely to repeat that behaviour, but if he/she sees that the behaviour is resulting in punishment or ignorance, the chances of repeating that behaviour is very low.
Social Learning Theory Examples
1. Children’s Behaviour
The behaviour shown by the children by observing their parents or the other family members is the most prominent example of the social learning theory. If the children feel that their behaviour is being rewarded by the others they keep on imitating that behaviour. For example, the child help in doing various house chores because the mother gave him/her the chocolate the last time he/she helped her mother in housecleaning.
2. Aggressive Behavior
As discussed in this article earlier, the children showed aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll because they had observed another person doing the same. Likewise, most people often learn and exhibit aggressive behaviour by observing other people. Many people claim that violence shown in Television shows and movies result in the aggressive behaviour of the people, which eventually encourages violence in society.
3. Criminal Behaviour
Social learning theory helps in understanding the motive behind the criminals for committing any crime. According to social learning theory,
aggressive behaviors are learned through reinforcement and the imitation of aggressive models”
A person gets motivated to commit any crime if he/she sees another criminal being rewarded or getting benefited from committing any crime. The person will tend to assume that he/she too can commit a crime to get the benefits, which is why strong laws and strict punishments are needed to be implemented by the lawmakers to spread the message that committing any crime will lead to the punishments rather than any benefits.
4. In Social Work
The social learning theories help the social workers and the researchers to evaluate why do people exhibit specific behaviour and how to tackle any situation that arises due to the influence of the social learning theory. For example, a man who shows negative behaviour towards women because he is born in a family that does not respect women and suppress women empowerment is a pure example of the social learning theory.
5. Social Media
Social media is a prominent example of the social learning theory. People try to copy the traits of their favourite TV personalities, dressing up like popular fashion designers, imitating a movie scene, and attempting viral social media challenges The main idea that prompts people to act or behave in accordance with certain people is the need of the acceptance and popularity among the others.
6. New Employees
Every organization has a different work culture, which is why every new employee observes and tries to imitate their peer’s behaviour to fit in the new work culture. If the current employees at the organization exhibit good behaviour and show great work ethics, the new employees also try to follow the same behaviour.
7. Skill Learning
Competitiveness is the basic nature of human beings. Healthy competition between the students at the school, or the colleagues at the workplace, helps people to become the better version of themselves. Social learning theory influences people to learn new skills and enhance their capabilities by observing and imitating the people who possess those skills.
8. Traveller and ex-pats
The social learning perspective also comes into play when people move from one place to another, or shift to a new country. By observing the behaviour and the culture of the other people belonging to the new place, one can easily fit in the new place. For example, if you are moving from a western country to an Asian country, you can better fit in the Asian society by observing, and imitating the behaviour of the Asian people.
Televisions commercials are the perfect example of the social learning perspective. Most people tend to assume that wearing a specific perfume, drinking some beverage, or buying a specific car can make them popular and attractive among the people like the actor was admired by the others in the commercial. People eventually buy those products to imitate the behaviour shown by the actors in the commercial.
The concept of social learning is commonly seen in the workplace. The employees tend to pay attention to the behaviour and the work ethics of their seniors. Hence, social learning can motivate the employees to perform better by observing the achievements of the seniors. The employees feel motivated to accomplish the assigned tasks if some reinforcement is associated with that tasks.