Social learning theory states that an individual will learn from others through observation, modeling, and imitation (Bandura & McClelland, 1977). A person’s behavior is dependent on the environment they come from and the models they grew up observing. Learning is believed to be a cognitive process that will take place in a social context. The social learning theory is often referred to as a bridge between cognitive and behaviorist learning theories because it covers memory, attention, and motivation. Albert Bandura proposed the theory, and it is one of the most influential development and learning theory. Bandura held to the belief that learning could not be fully accounted for by direct reinforcement. The theory proposed by Bandura was rooted in the traditional learning theory, but it added a social element. He argued that individuals could learn new behaviors and information by observing other individuals. Observational learning is the term he used, and this could explain different kinds of behaviors. Learning would also occur through observation of punishments and rewards, which is a process referred to as vicarious reinforcement. The social learning theory elaborates on the traditional behavioral theories, where behavior is ruled solely using reinforcements. This is accomplished by placing emphasis on the crucial roles that various internal processes play in the learning individual.
Bandura believed that humans are active information processors, and they think of the relationship between behavior and their consequences (Akers & Jensen, 2011). Children will learn by observing the people around them as they behave in different ways. The famous bobo doll experiment demonstrates this clearly. The individuals that others will observe are referred to as models. In our society, children re surrounded by different models like parents, TV characters, friends, family, and teachers. The children will use the role models as examples of behavior to imitate. Using this theory, human behavior is explained through continuous reciprocal interaction between behavioral, environmental, and cognitive influences.
Theory explanation of human development
Albert Bandura states that not all observed behavior is learned. Human development occurs through observation and imitation of the models. From observation, an individual can form an idea of how they will perform new behaviors. In later occasions, the coded information will serve as a guide for action. Teachers and parents are the best models that a child or adolescent would have during their developmental stage. This models have recognized they are constantly been observed, and they attempt to model proper behaviors. Children absorb all they observe since they are like a sponge (Akers, 2011). For a person to learn they should use these four abilities retention, attention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention is necessary for a person to make any observations. The observer’s attention should be aroused by the model if they are to learn anything. Any distraction of the observer will harm the learning experience. The modeler is charged with ensuring that the observer maintains attention.
Retention of the information observed is vital. A person can observe and be interested in the model, but if they cannot store the information then learning will not occur. Retention involves mental images, symbolic rehearsal, cognitive organization, symbolic coding, and motor rehearsal. These are vital for the observer as they allow him or her to retain the information and pull it up later. For a person to move to reproduction, they must pass the first two abilities. Reproduction involves the actual performance of the observed behavior. A person will not have the capability to perform something they observed if their attention was distracted and they did not store the information. Reproduction does not occur once, but it is repeated repeatedly in order to improve and advance on this skill. The individual can convert the symbolic representations into appropriate actions based on the situation.
Motivation is the final step. The individual has to be motivated in order for them to imitate the modeled behavior. Reinforcement and punishment play a vital role in motivating the individual. Personally experiencing reinforcement or punishment can be highly effective, but observing others experience the same could serve the same purpose. For example, if a teacher rewards a student for coming to class early, the other students might start coming to class early each day. A person’s personality is developed when they are young and based on their social and environmental surroundings. A person’s self-esteem will play a vital role in how the individual will respond to different situations. The reactions are based on what the individual was taught or observed from his or her models. Having am optimistic self-esteem is vital as it offers a child the opportunity to grow with confidence. Having confidence will allow an individual to face challenges and not run away.
Continuous or discontinuous
Human development is continuous. This is because an individual is always observing and learning new things daily. The only determinant is that the individual have the ability to pay attention, retain the information, practice what they have learnt, and are motivated. These four abilities will enable a person to learn continuously new behavior and skills. There are many observations that a person will make, and it is only when the person is faced with a similar situation that requires them to employ or reproduce what they learnt would they start practicing or reproducing the skill. Learning is continuous because the person will gradually proceed from one stage to another. The individual will increase their abilities as they continuously practice on what they observed. With more practice, they can improve their skill and learn something new, which would demonstrate that they would now need to practice and recall this new skill.
Discontinuous human development requires that a person moves from one stage to the other, and stages are distinct. The stages will not have any correlation and are not successive of each other. This is quite different from continuous human development because the observations a person makes are interlinked when the individual begins to reproduce the observations (Lam, Kraus, & Ahearne, 2010). Reproducing the observations made allows the individual to make gradual changes. The changes will not appear immediately as the individual is trying to perfect what they observed and make it fit into the current situation. It is not necessary that a person demonstrate new behavior immediately they make observations. The new behavior will only become apparent when a similar situation presents itself.
One course of development or many
Social learning theory has many courses for development. The theory does not have a single course that all persons have to follow (Rendell et al., 2011). This is because the behavior of one model is not similar to that of another. The different contexts that an individual is faced with will determine the course of development that they will follow. Children grow up in different and distinct contexts. The unique combinations of environmental and genetic circumstances demonstrate there are many courses of development that a child could follow. A good example is that of a shy child who is afraid of social encounters. The child would have grown up in an environment that does not encourage social interaction, and such interaction was punished. This would be in contrast to the child who is sociable and seeks out other people. Children are born and raised in different backgrounds. The children who grow up in villages will have different cognitive capacities, feelings, and social skills from those who are raised in large cities. These differences will emerge because the environments are different, and they will experience different things as they grow.
There are complex and many-layered contexts that shape development. Therefore, one can see clearly that there are different courses of development an individual would undergo to learn the same thing. Learning how to speak or walk is similar for all children, but the steps that the child underwent would differ considerably. Having different ways of learning the same things allows development to occur in a natural setting or method.
Nature or nurture
The social learning theory places emphasis on nurture and not nature (Cherry, 2011). Nurture means the different forces of the social and physical world that influence a person’s psychological experiences and their biological makeup after birth. This differs from nature because nature refers to hereditary information an individual receives from the parents like genes. Nurture is emphasized because the theory focuses on the cognitive behaviors a child learns from observation. Requiring that the child or individual observe their model means that they do not acquire anything genetically, but rather through observations, and imitation. For example, the language that a child learns is not necessarily their mother’s language, but rather the language the child is exposed to after birth. Nurture focuses on what a child learns from their environment and not what they have acquired from their parents. Nature concentrates on the biology, while nurture is the environment.
The environment an individual is raised up in determines their future behavior. This will not be related to their biology or hereditary. The observations a child will make will determine how they…