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Social learning theory or SLT is the theory that people learn new

behavior through overt reinforcement or punishment, or via

observational learning of the social factors in their environment.
If people observe positive, desired outcomes in the observed
behavior, then they are more likely to model, imitate, and adopt
the behavior themselves.
Social learning theory is derived from the work of Cornell
Montgomery !"#$%!&'#( which proposed that social learning
occurred through four main stages of limitation)
close contact,
imitation of superiors,
understanding of concepts,
role model behaviour
It consists of $ parts observing, imitating, and reinforcements
*ulian +otter moved away from theories based on psychosis and
behaviourism, and developed a learning theory. In Social Learning
and Clinical ,sychology !&-#(, +otter suggests that the effect of
behaviour has an impact on the motivation of people to engage in
that specific behaviour. ,eople wish to avoid negative
conse.uences, while desiring positive results or effects. If one
e/pects a positive outcome from a behaviour, or thinks there is a
high probability of a positive outcome, then they will be more
likely to engage in that behaviour. The behaviour is reinforced,
with positive outcomes, leading a person to repeat the behaviour.
This social learning theory suggests that behaviour is influenced
by these environmental factors or stimulus, and not psychological
factors alone.
2lbert 3andura !&44(
e/panded on +otter6s idea, as well as
earlier work by Miller 7 8ollard !&#!(,
and is related to social
learning theories of 9ygotsky and Lave. This theory incorporates
aspects of behavioural and cognitive learning. 3ehavioural learning
assumes that people6s environment surroundings( cause people to
behave in certain ways. Cognitive learning presumes that
psychological factors are important for influencing how one
behaves. Social learning suggests a combination of environmental
social( and psychological factors influence behaviour. Social
learning theory outlines three re.uirements for people to learn
and model behaviour include attention) retention remembering
what one observed(, reproduction ability to reproduce the
behaviour(, and motivation good reason( to want to adopt the
In criminology, +onald 2kers and +obert 3urgess !&::(
developed social learning theory to e/plain deviancy by combining
variables which encouraged delin.uency e.g. the social pressure
from delin.uent peers( with variables that discouraged
delin.uency e.g. the parental response to discovering delin.uency
in their children(.
The first two stages were used by ;dwin Sutherland in his
8ifferential 2ssociation Theory. Sutherland<s model for learning
in a social environment depends on the cultural conflict between
different factions in a society over who has the power to
determine what is deviant. 3ut his ideas were difficult to put into
operation and measure .uantitatively. 3urgess, a behavioral
sociologist, and 2kers revised Sutherland<s theory and included
the idea of reinforcement, which increases or decreases the
strength of a behavior, and applied the principles of =perant
,sychology, which holds that behavior is a function of its
conse.uences and can be really bad in some cases.,fohl, !&&#(.
>unctionalism had been the dominant paradigm but, in the !&:'s,
there was a shift towards Social Control Theories, Conflict
Criminology, and Labeling Theories that tried to e/plain the
emerging and more radical social environment. Moreover, people
believed that they could observe behavior and see the process of
social learning, e.g., parents watched their own children and saw
the influence of other children on their own? they could also see
what kind of affect they had on their own children, i.e. the
processes of differential association and reinforcement. The
conservative political parties were advocating an increase in
punishment to deter crime. @nlike Labeling Theory, Social
Learning Theory actually supports the use of punishment which
translates into longer sentences for those convicted, and helps to
e/plain the increase in the prison population that began in the
early !&4's Livingston, !&&:(.
@nlike situational crime prevention, the theory ignores the
opportunistic nature of crime *effery, !&&') 5:!%5(. To learn
one must first observe criminal behavior, but where was this
behavior learnedA The theory does e/plain how criminal behavior
is Btransmitted< from one person to an animal, which can e/plain
increases in types of crimes, but it does not consider how criminal
acting can be prevented *effery, !&&') 5-5( although it may be
fairly assumed that the processes of learning behaviors can be
There is also a definite problem. Chat may be reinforcement for
one person may not be for another. 2lso, reinforcements can be
both social involving attention and behavior between more than
one person, and non%social reinforcement would not involve this
interaction 3urgess 7 2kers) !&::( Social Learning Theory has
been used in mentoring programs that should, in theory, prevent
some future criminal behavior. The idea behind mentoring
programs is that an adult is paired with a child, who supposedly
learns from the behavior of the adult and is positively reinforced
for good behavior *ones%3rown, !&&4(. In the classroom, a
teacher may use the theory by changing the seating
arrangements to pair a behaving child and a misbehaving child, but
the outcome may be that the behaving child begins to be very
Serial Murder and Social Learning Theory
!&&$( applied the social learning theory to serial murder
using case studies, and he claimed that serial murder can be
learned. The social learning theory suggests that people learn new
behavior through punishment and rewards. Dale argued that
serial murderers must go through some humiliating e/perience in
the early development of their life Singer and Densley, 5''#(.
3ut the serial murderer goes through a different process
because most children go through some sort of humiliation during
their life. The child who becomes a serial killer is often
introduced to a humiliating e/perience, and cannot distinguish
between a rewarding and non rewarding e/perience, which is part
of the social learning theory. This causes the child to look at
certain situations in a negative way, causing the child to become
frustrated. Chen the individual becomes frustrated from a
humiliating e/perience from the past, the individual then choose
vulnerable outlets for their aggression Singer and Densley,
. The child learns to e/pect humiliation or a negative
situation from the past, which then causes frustration or
Case ;/amples) ;d Eein was humiliated early in his life and later
turned his aggression out on others. Eein was controlled by his
mother, and reFected by his father as a child, and was often
abused Dale, !&&$(. Ted 3undy chose his victims based on the
resemblance to a former girlfriend who had broken their
marriage engagement Dale, !&&$(. 8avid 3erkowitG had a sense
of reFection stemmed from being adopted, and it was said he felt
reFected and humiliated by the world. In this case, 3erkowitG
turned to fire starting the vent his frustration as a child. Later
in his life, 3erkowitG obtained a se/ual transmitted disease which
created more hatred for women, which he would later turn to kill
random women >ishman, 5'':(
. In all of these instances the
serial killer was presented with some form of humiliation as a
child, and learned to vent their anger through aggression.
The applications of social learning theory have been important in
the history of education policies in the @nited States. The Gone
of pro/imal development is used as a basis for early intervention
programs such as Dead Start. Social learning theory can also be
seen in the T9 and movie rating system that is used in the @nited
States. The rating system is designed to all parents to know what
the programs that their children are watching contain. The
ratings are based on age appropriate material to help parents
decide if certain content is appropriate for their child to watch.
Some content may be harmful to children who do not have the
cognitive ability to process certain content, however the child
may model the behaviors seen on T9.
Euided participation is seen in schools across the @nited States
and all around the world in language classes when the teacher
says a phrase and asks the class to repeat the phrase. The other
part to guided participation is when the student goes home and
practices on their own. Euided participation is also seen with
parents who are trying to teach their own children how to speak.
,ortraitising is another techni.ue that is used widely across the
@nited States. Most academic subFects take advantage of
portraitising , however mathematics is one of the best e/amples.
2s students move through their education they learn skills in
mathematics that they will build on throughout their scholastic
careers. 2 student who has never taken a basic math class and
does not understand the principles of addition and subtraction
will not be able to understand algebra. The process of learning
math is a portraitising techni.ue because the knowledge builds on
itself over time.
!. ^ +otter, *. 3. !&#-(. Social Learning and Clinical
,sychology. ,rentice%Dall.
5. ^ 3andura, 2. !&44(. Social Learning Theory. Eeneral
Learning ,ress.
$. ^ Miller, H. 7 8ollard, *. !&#!(. Social Learning and
Imitation. Iale @niversity ,ress.
#. ^ Dale, +obert. !&&$(. The 2pplication of Learning Theory
to Serial Murder. 2merican *ournal of Criminal *ustice. 9ol
!4 5(, $4%#-.
-. ^ Densley, C. 7 Singer, S. 5''#(. 2pplying Social Learning
Theory to Childhood and 2dolescent >iresetting) Can it Lead
to Serial MurderA International *ournal of =ffender
Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 9ol #" #(, #:!%#4:.
:. ^ >ishman, Steve. 5'':(. The 8evil in 8avid 3erkowitG. Hew
Iork) Hew Iork. 9ol $&$5(, $5% #'.
Social Learning Theory
from notes on =rmond6s Duman Learning
0ref) =rmrod, *.;. !&&&(. Duman learning $rd ed.(. @pper
Saddle +iver, H*) ,rentice%Dall.1
Social learning theory focuses on the learning that occurs within
a social context. It considers that people learn from one another,
including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and
modeling. 2mong others Albert Bandura is considered the leading
proponent of this theory.
General principles of social learning theory follos!
!. ,eople can learn by obser"ing the behavior is of others and the
outcomes of those behaviors.
5. Learning can occur ithout a change in behavior. 3ehaviorists
say that learning has to be represented by a permanent change in
behavior, in contrast social learning theorists say that because
people can learn through obser"ation alone, their learning may
not necessarily be shown in their performance. Learning may or
may not result in a behavior change.
$. Cognition plays a role in learning. =ver the last $' years social
learning theory has become increasingly cogniti"e in its
interpretation of human learning. 2wareness and e/pectations of
future reinforcements or punishments can have a maFor effect on
the behaviors that people e/hibit.
#. Social learning theory can be considered a bridge or a
transition between behaviorist learning theories and cognitive
learning theories.
#o the en"ironment reinforces and punishes modeling!
,eople are often reinforced for modeling the behavior of others.
3andura suggested that the en"ironment also reinforces
modeling. This is in se"eral possible ays!
!, The observer is reinforced by the model. >or e/ample a
student who changes dress to fit in with a certain group of
students has a strong likelihood of being accepted and thus
reinforced by that group.
5. The observer is reinforced by a third person. The observer
might be modeling the actions of someone else, for e/ample, an
outstanding class leader or student. The teacher notices this and
compliments and praises the observer for modeling such behavior
thus reinforcing that behavior.
$. The imitated beha"ior itself leads to reinforcing
conse.uences. Many behaviors that we learn from others produce
satisfying or reinforcing results. >or e/ample, a student in my
multimedia class could observe how the e/tra work a classmate
does is fun. This student in turn would do the same e/tra work
and also receive enFoyment.
#. Conse.uences of the model<s behavior affect the observers
behavior "icariously. This is known as vicarious reinforcement.
This is where in the model is reinforced for a response and then
the obser"er shos an increase in that same response. 3andura
illustrated this by having students watch a film of a model hitting
a inflated clon doll. =ne group of children saw the model being
praised for such action. Cithout being reinforced, the group of
children began to also hit the doll .
Contemporary social learning perspecti"e of reinforcement and
!. Contemporary theory proposes that both reinforcement and
punishment have indirect effects on learning. They are not the
sole or main cause.
5. +einforcement and punishment influence the e/tent to which
an individual e/hibits a behavior that has been learned.
$. The expectation of reinforcement influences cogniti"e
processes that promote learning. Therefore attention pays a
critical role in learning. 2nd attention is influenced by the
e/pectation of reinforcement. 2n e/ample would be, where the
teacher tells a group of students that what they ill study next
is not on the test. Students will not pay attention, because they
do not e/pect to know the information for a test.
Cogniti"e factors in social learning!
Social learning theory has cognitive factors as well as behaviorist
factors actually operant factors(.
!. Learning without performance) 3andura makes a distinction
between learning through obser"ation and the actual imitation of
what has been learned.
5. Cognitive processing during learning) Social learning theorists
contend that attention is a critical factor in learning.
$. ;/pectations) 2s a result of being reinforced, people form
e/pectations about the conse$uences that future behaviors are
likely to bring. They e/pect certain behaviors to bring
reinforcements and others to bring punishment. The learner
needs to be aare however, of the response reinforcements and
response punishment. +einforcement increases a response only
when the learner is aware of that connection.
#. +eciprocal causation) 3andura proposed that behavior can
influence both the environment and the person. In fact each of
these three "ariables, the person, the behavior, and the
environment can have an influence on each other.
-. Modeling) There are different types of models. There is the
li"e model, and actual person demonstrating the behavior. There
can also be a symbolic model, which can be a person or action
portrayed in some other medium, , such as television, videotape,
computer programs.
Beha"iors that can be learned through modeling!
Many behaviors can be learned, at least partly, through modeling.
;/amples that can be cited are, students can watch parents read,
students can watch the demonstrations of mathematics problems,
or seen someone acting bravely and a fearful situation.
Aggression can be learned through models. Much research
indicate that children become more aggressive when they
observed aggressive or violent models. Moral thinking and moral
beha"ior are influenced by observation and modeling. This
includes moral %udgments regarding right and wrong which can in
part, develop through modeling.
Conditions necessary for effecti"e modeling to occur!
3andura mentions four conditions that are necessary before an
individual can successfully model the behavior of someone else)
!. 2ttention) the person must first pay attention to the model.
5. +etention) the observer must be able to remember the
behavior that has been observed. =ne way of increasing this is
using the techni.ue of rehearsal.
$. Motor reproduction) the third condition is the ability to
replicate the behavior that the model has Fust demonstrated.
This means that the observer has to be able to replicate the
action, which could be a problem with a learner who is not ready
developmentally to replicate the action. >or e/ample, little
children have difficulty doing comple/ physical motion.
#. Motivation) the final necessary ingredient for modeling to
occur is moti"ation, learners must want to demonstrate what
they have learned. +emember that since these four conditions
vary among individuals, different people will reproduce the same
behavior differently.
&ffects of modeling on beha"ior!
Modeling teaches ne behaviors.
Modeling influences the fre$uency of previously learned
Modeling may encourage previously forbidden behaviors.
Modeling increases the fre$uency of similar behaviors. >or
e/ample a student might see a friend e/cel in basketball and he
tries to e/cel in football because he is not tall enough for
Self efficacy!
,eople are more li'ely to engage in certain behaviors when they
believe they are capable of e/ecuting those behaviors
successfully. This means that they will have high self%efficacy. In
layman6s terms self%efficacy could be looked as self confidence
towards learning.

#o self(efficacy affects beha"ior!
)oy of activities) individuals typically choose activities they feel
they will be successful in doing.
&ffort and persistence) individuals will tend to put more effort
end activities and behaviors they consider to be successful in
Learning and achie"ement) students with high self%efficacy tend
to be better students and achieve more.
*actors in the de"elopment of self efficacy!
In general students typically have a good sense of what they can
and cannot do, therefore they have fairly accurate opinions about
their own self%efficacy. In my multimedia program, the challenge
is to increase student self%efficacy. There are many factors
which affect self efficacy. Some of these factors can be?
previous successes and failures, messages received from others,
and successes and failures of others. Hote example of 2CS and
Cliff 7 9anessa.
Self regulation!
Self%regulation has come to be more emphasiGed in social learning
theory. Self%regulation is when the individual has his on ideas
about what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior and chooses
actions accordingly. There are several aspects of self regulation)
Setting standards and goals
Self observation
Self Fudge
Self reaction
+romoting self%regulation can be an important techni.ue. This is
usually done by teaching the individual to reard himself after
doing the needed behavior. >or e/ample, a graduate student will
tell himself to complete a certain chapter before taking a break
and rela/ing.
Self instructions!
2n effective strategy is to teach learners to gi"e themsel"es
instructions that guide their behavior. There are five steps to
achieve this goal)
Cognitive modeling)
=vert e/ternal guidance
=vert self guidance
>aded, overt self guidance
covert self instruction

Self monitoring and self reinforcement!
These are two ways that people can control their own behavior.
>irst they monitor and observe their own behavior, sometimes
even scoring behavior. Secondly, people are also able to change
their behavior by reinforcing themselves, by giving are
withholding reinforcement.
&ducational implications of social learning theory!
Social learning theory has numerous implications for classroom
!. Students often learn a great deal simply by obser"ing other
5. ,escribing the conse$uences of behavior is can effectively
increase the appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate
ones. This can involve discussing with learners about the rewards
and conse.uences of various behaviors.
$. Modeling provides an alternati"e to shaping for teaching new
behaviors. Instead of using shaping, which is operant conditioning,
modeling can pro"ide a faster, more efficient means for
teaching new behavior. To promote effective modeling a teacher
must make sure that the four essential conditions e/ist?
attention, retention , motor reproduction, and motivation.
#. Teachers and parents must model appropriate beha"iors and
take care that they do not model inappropriate behaviors.
-. Teachers should expose students to a "ariety of other models.
This techni.ue is especially important to break down traditional
:. Students must belie"e that they are capable of accomplishing
school tasks. Thus it is very important to develop a sense of self(
efficacy for students. Teachers can promote such self%efficacy
by having students receive confidence%building messages, watch
others be successful, and e/perience success on their own. .
4. Teachers should help students set realistic expectations for
their academic accomplishments. In general in my class that
means making sure that e/pectations are not set too lo. I want
to realistically challenge my students. Dowever, sometimes the
task is beyond a student6s ability, e/ample would be the cancer
". Self%regulation techni.ues provide an effecti"e method for
impro"ing student beha"ior.
Social Learning Theory
An -"er"ie of Bandura.s Social Learning Theory
3y Jendra 9an Cagner, Euide
KLearning would be e/ceedingly laborious, not to mention
haGardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their
own actions to inform them what to do. >ortunately, 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.K
%2lbert 3andura, Social Learning Theory, !&44
/hat is Social Learning Theory0
The social learning theory proposed by 2lbert 3andura has
become perhaps the most influential theory of learning and
development. Chile rooted in many of the basic concepts of
traditional learning theory, 3andura believed that direct
reinforcement could not account for all types of learning.
Dis theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn
new information and behaviors by watching other people. Jnown as
observational learning or modeling(, this type of learning can be
used to e/plain a wide variety of behaviors.
Basic Social Learning Concepts
!. ,eople can learn through observation.
-bser"ational Learning
In his famous K3obo dollK studies, 3andura demonstrated that
children learn and imitate behaviors they have observed in other
people. The children in 3andura<s studies observed an adult acting
violently toward a 3obo doll. Chen the children were later
allowed to play in a room with the 3obo doll, they began to imitate
the aggressive actions they had previously observed.
3andura identified three basic models of observational learning)
!. 2 live model, which involves an actual individual
demonstrating or acting out a behavior.
5. 2 verbal instructional model, which involves descriptions and
e/planations of a behavior.
$. 2 symbolic model, which involves real or fictional characters
displaying behaviors in books, films, television programs, or
online media.
5. Mental states are important to learning.
1ntrinsic Reinforcement
3andura noted that e/ternal, environmental reinforcement was
not the only factor to influence learning and behavior. De
described intrinsic reinforcement as a form of internal reward,
such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. This
emphasis on internal thoughts and cognitions helps connect
learning theories to cognitive developmental theories. Chile many
te/tbooks place social learning theory with behavioral theories,
3andura himself describes his approach as a 6social cognitive
$. Learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior.
Chile behaviorists believed that learning led to a permanent
change in behavior, observational learning demonstrates that
people can learn new information without demonstrating new
The Modeling +rocess
Hot all observed behaviors are effectively learned. >actors
involving both the model and the learner can play a role in
whether social learning is successful. Certain re.uirements and
steps must also be followed. The following steps are involved in
the observational learning and modeling process)
In order to learn, you need to be paying attention. 2nything
that detracts your attention is going to have a negative
effect on observational learning. If the model interesting or
there is a novel aspect to the situation, you are far more
likely to dedicate your full attention to learning.
The ability to store information is also an important part of
the learning process. +etention can be affected by a number
of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and
act on it is vital to observational learning.
=nce you have paid attention to the model and retained the
information, it is time to actually perform the behavior you
observed. >urther practice of the learned behavior leads to
improvement and skill advancement.
>inally, in order for observational learning to be successful,
you have to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has
been modeled. +einforcement and punishment play an
important role in motivation. Chile e/periencing these
motivators can be highly effective, so can observing other
e/perience some type of reinforcement or punishment. >or
e/ample, if you see another student rewarded with e/tra
credit for being to class on time, you might start to show up
a few minutes early each day.
Social Learning Theory 2A3 Bandura4
The social learning theory of 3andura emphasiGes the importance
of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional
reactions of others. 3andura !&44( states) KLearning would be
e/ceedingly laborious, not to mention haGardous, if people had to
rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them
what to do. >ortunately, 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.K
p55(. Social learning theory e/plains human behavior in terms of
continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral,
an environmental influences. The component processes underlying
observational learning are) !( 2ttention, including modeled events
distinctiveness, affective valence, comple/ity, prevalence,
functional value( and observer characteristics sensory
capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement(, 5(
+etention, including symbolic coding, cognitive organiGation,
symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal(, $( Motor +eproduction,
including physical capabilities, self%observation of reproduction,
accuracy of feedback, and #( Motivation, including e/ternal,
vicarious and self reinforcement.
3ecause it encompasses attention, memory and motivation, social
learning theory spans both cognitive and behavioral frameworks.
3andura6s theory improves upon the strictly behavioral
interpretation of modeling provided by Miller 7 8ollard !&#!(.
3andura<s work is related to the theories of 9ygotsky and Lave
which also emphasiGe the central role of social learning.
Social learning theory has been applied e/tensively to the
understanding of aggression 3andura, !&4$( and psychological
disorders, particularly in the conte/t of behavior modification
3andura, !&:&(. It is also the theoretical foundation for the
techni.ue of behavior modeling which is widely used in training
programs. In recent years, 3andura has focused his work on the
concept of self%efficacy in a variety of conte/ts e.g., 3andura,
The most common and pervasive( e/amples of social learning
situations are television commercials. Commercials suggest that
drinking a certain beverage or using a particular hair shampoo will
make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people.
8epending upon the component processes involved such as
attention or motivation(, we may model the behavior shown in the
commercial and buy the product being advertised.
!. The highest level of observational learning is achieved by first
organiGing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and
then enacting it overtly. Coding modeled behavior into words,
labels or images results in better retention than simply observing.
5. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it
results in outcomes they value.
$. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the
model is similar to the observer and has admired status and the
behavior has functional value.
3andura, 2. !&&4(. Self%efficacy) The e/ercise of control. Hew
Iork) C.D. >reeman.
3andura, 2. !&":(. Social >oundations of Thought and 2ction.
;nglewood Cliffs, H*) ,rentice%Dall.
3andura, 2. !&4$(. 2ggression) 2 Social Learning 2nalysis.
;nglewood Cliffs, H*) ,rentice%Dall.
3andura, 2. !&44(. Social Learning Theory. Hew Iork) Eeneral
Learning ,ress.
3andura, 2. !&:&(. ,rinciples of 3ehavior Modification. Hew Iork)
Dolt, +inehart 7 Cinston.
3andura, 2. 7 Calters, +. !&:$(. Social Learning and ,ersonality
8evelopment. Hew Iork) Dolt, +inehart 7 Cinston.
Miller, H. 7 8ollard, *. !&#!(. Social Learning and Imitation. Hew
Daven, H*) Iale @niversity ,ress.
=ther descriptions of 3andura<s work can be found at)