Social Learning Theory

There are many theories when it comes to the way people behave and why people behave that way.  I found the topic of Social Learning Theory in Chapter 1, to catch my attention and my interest. I found this topic interesting because I work at a daycare and I believe the children learn by observing their parents, myself and other teachers.
 The definition of social learning theory is “a cognitive-behavioral approach that strongly emphasizes the importance of observational learning and cognitive variables in examining human behaviors” (Powell). Albert Bandura was the theorist who proposed the social learning theory and it has become possibly the most influential theory of learning and development. Bandura's social learning theory proposed that learning could occur simply by observing the actions of other people. Bandura also proposed the concept of reciprocal determinism, in which environmental events, observable behavior and “person variables are seen as having a reciprocal influence on each other” (Powell).  
         In Chapter 11 I learned about Bandura’s Bobo doll study. This study was conducted to see how children would react to the Bobo doll after observing adults being aggressive towards the doll. Bandura found some shocking evidence in his study concerning the social leaning of aggression. The children behaved aggressive if they witnessed an adult being aggressive, the aggression was even stronger if the child observed reinforcement of the adult’s aggression. Bandura’s finding support his social learning theory. Children learn social behaviors such as aggression through the process of observing and watching the way other another person acts.

Powell, R. A., Symbaluk, D. G., & Honey, P. L. (2009). Introduction to learning and behavior. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


  1. Samantha,

    Great informative post! Bandura’s study was so important because we are shaped by what we observe. I too work in a school and it is very clear why some children behavior the way they do. In my opinion, observation is the way we do majority of our learning. I like Bandura’s theory because he looked at the individual as well. He took into account the influence internal events has on behavior (Powell, p. 28). I believe we observe others and process those behaviors with past experiences and internal values before deciding whether to imitate that behavior or judge that behavior as unacceptable. Like Bandura, I believe cognition plays an important role in behavior exhibited.


    Powell, R., Honey, P., Symbaluk, D. (2013). Introduction to learning and behavior. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  2. I really enjoyed this post I work with kids all the time ( i teach swimming and dance) and can't agree more with the idea that children are constantly observing the things around them and mimicking them and learning from them as they are observing.

  3. Social learning theory is a fascinating topic, especially when you examine Bandura's experiment. As you mentioned, he found that children behaved more aggressively to the Bobo doll when they witnessed adults being aggressive to it. However, the Bobo doll is an inanimate object. Since it cannot express thoughts or feelings, perhaps the children did not realize the extent of their actions. If a child had behaved aggressively towards another person and saw their change in expression, would the child to continue his/her aggressive tendencies?
    On another note, this study's findings are very helpful from a parenting perspective. Evidently, there are parents who struggle with misbehaving children and unfortunately, they quickly blame this behavior on their kids. Since parents are often the biggest influence on their kids, they should avoid "pointing the finger" and instead be cognizant of their own behavior.

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