You are on page 1of 5

Social cognitive learning theory refers to a psychosocial concept that tries to explain the

development of human behaviour in their environment with relation to their cognitive skills.
In other words, it is the theory that aims at highlighting the idea that much of human learning
occurs in a social context through observing others with critical interventions of the mental
processes. This implies that people acquire knowledge of rules, skills, strategies, beliefs and
attitudes through interaction with the significant others or those they consider role models. The
theory was propounded by Albert Bandura, a Canadian psychologists after being unsatisfied
with the ideas of the behavioural theory as it could not account for the new responses to
situations and only focused on one form of learning, direct learning were the learner performs
a response and experiences consequences. Therefore, this presentation aim at explaining the
four stages that are involved in the social cognitive learning theory of Albert Bandura.

Consequently, to provide an effective and convening solution to his idea, bandura inculpated
the process of reciprocal determinism, which alludes that social learning does not only involve
stimulus but that social transmission of patterns is necessitated by the fact that the behavioural
repertoires which constitute an enduring part of culture are to a large extent transmitted on the
basis of repeated behaviour displayed by social models rather than by memory drum
(Bandura,1965).He divided his belief into two dimensional parts; the observational process and
the mediational process which occurs between stimuli and response.

In the observational level process of social behaviour acquisition he outstated that human
beings or children tend to observe people around them behaving in various ways such as
family, siblings, characters on childrens TVs, children within their peers groups, teachers at
school and so forth (Bandura,1977). And these individuals who are observed are normally
referred to as models. It is these models that provide examples of behaviour for the children to
follow because they pay attention to them and encode their behaviours and later imitate.

In addition to this, Thoron (2006) averted that, children or older persons using this social
approach tend to acquire any form of behaviour either it has positive effects or negative
consequences. But under most circumstances people will adopt social behaviours that are
morally acceptable to society. And this mostly will depend on the rewards of the behaviour. If
the rewards are negative reinforcers a child terminates the behaviour but if it is positively
rewarding the child definitely continues with the behaviour.

This argument was proven by the experiment he carried out known as the Bobo doll experiment
in which children were divided in three groups and given a film to watch in which three

different role models were showing some form of aggressiveness toward the bobo doll. The
children observed that, the first model was rewarded despite being the most aggressive, and the
second one was punished for being aggressive and the last model was nether punished or
rewarded (Mayer, 1986). Therefore, when the children were taken in the room with a bobo
doll, those whose role model was rewarded acted the same way he did but those who was
punished shunned away, same with those whose role model was not given any reward.

Considerably, Bandura further argued that children do not automatically observe and copy any
behaviour of their role model or individuals but there are some thought prior to imitation which
mostly occurs between behaviour (stimulus) and limiting it or not (response), a process known
as mediational process. According to him, this meant that social cognitive learning is internal
and that mental factors also has a major role in influencing the development of ones social
behaviour. Therefore, it is this same reason that Thoron (2006) had to state that, human are
active information processors and that they think about the relationship between their
behaviour and its consequences. Hence, the more reason one can argue that observational
process cannot occur unless cognitive processes were at work.

These mental processes are relevant because they intervene or mediate in the learning process
to determine whether a new response is acquired or not. And these mental processes included
the four main well known stages of Albert Banduras theory of social cognitive learning
development; attention phase, retention, reproduction or motor reproduction and the motivation
stage (Bandura, 1965).

According to Bandura (1977) the attention phase refer to the stage in which people or children
are exposed or notices the behaviour done by the role model. These models can be either their
parents, celebrities on television, footballers and so on. Thus, for a behaviour to be imitated it
has to grab ones attention. This means that people cannot learn much from observation unless
they attend to and perceive accurately the significant features of the modelled behaviour. In
other words, the things that interest them is what will enhance their attention toward that
particular model.

In addition to the above statement, Woolfolk (2004) noted that, though children/people observe
several different behaviours from different people they regard their models, not every act of
behaviour will they adopt, they be selective and analytical depending with the one they has
their attention drawn the most either bad or good. Hence, this stage is very important in the
social cognitive development and models must ensure they depict behaviour that is morally

acceptable so as not to destroy the morality of these children and parents must take good time
to train these children what must be followed and what cant be copied.

The second stage is what is known as the retention stage (Bandura, 1986). It is the phase were
a learner encodes the observed behaviour of a model into storable, easy to remember packages
so as it can be applied in the future. Once the learner has successfully adopted the targeted
behaviour, he or she can begin rehearsing it through visualising and imagining the model
performing what has been observed. And then through continuous rehearsals the behaviour will
be attained for longer periods of time.

Mayer (1986) contributed that, people or children may notice a behaviour in their models but
are to a large extent cannot be influenced if they do not remember it. There is need for the
social behaviour to be recorded into the memory box so as the individual can easily trace and
imitate the features of the models behaviour. Hence, how well the behaviour is remembered by
a child the greater the impact it will have on them. For example, a child may copy certain
football styles played by their favourite soccer player, but if they are not installed in their
subconscious mind they will be unable to rehearse those tactics unless their mind had them
kept somewhere in the memory catalogue.

Apparently, the third component of modelling involves converting symbolic representation

into appropriate actions by organising ones responses spatially and temporally in accordance
with the modelled patterns. It is normally, referred to as the reproduction or motor reproduction
stage. It is the ability to perform the observed behaviour that the model has just demonstrated.
Woolfolk (2004) reinstates that, people or children observe much behaviour on a daily basis
that they would like to perform but are normally limited by the physical abilities and for that
reason even if they wish to reproduce the behaviour they cannot. Yet this influences ones
decision whether to try to imitate or not, For instance, a 90 year old woman watching someone
dancing on an ice, may only appreciate the skill but wont try to imitate because she physically
knows she cant do it.

Therefore, for a learner to familiarise themselves with the observed behaviour and produce the
desired results, they will make several attempts and remedy the behaviour through further
rehearsals and practice. During such a process several adjustments and advancement are made
by the learner until the targeted behaviour have been learnt and finally reproduced fully parallel
to that of the model. For example, if a child was imitating a particular move of dance, lets say
from Michael Jackson, a child by this stage will make sure that he does the dance exactly the

same way jack dances. Thus, we can state that the behaviour has been motory reproduced
(Mayer, 1986).

The last and final stage is what is known as the motivational phase. This stage deals with ones
will to perform the behaviour based on the rewards and punishment that follow the action of
the behaviour. If the perceived rewards outweighs the perceived costs, then the behaviour will
be more likely to be imitated by the observer. But if the vicarious reinforcement is not seen to
be important enough to the observer then they will not imitate the behaviour. Thus, for this
reason Bandura (1965) echoed that, people do not enact everything they learn, they are more
likely to adopt modelled behaviour that seemingly to benefit them positively. In other words,
they accept a behaviour if it results in outcomes they value than if it has unrewarding or
punishing effects. For example, those behaviour that seem to be effective for others are
favoured over behaviours that seem to have negative consequences.

Apparently, bandura stretched that all this process of social cognitive learning is normally
pushed by three main reinforcement, direct, vicarious and self-reinforcement. Thoron (2006)
alluded that, direct reinforcement is were an individual receive rewards or praise from others
directly for acting or behaving like their model. While vicarious reinforcement is the form of
reinforcement were individuals are indirectly motivated through the rewards received or owed
by their role model as well their achievements. For instance, one who is inspired by the
footballer Nemma, also begin to be motivated by the things and rewards Nemma gets. On the
other hand, self-reinforcement is were an individual praises themselves for the job done or
achievement made.

Finally, unlike the theory of behaviorism that only focus on the response and consequences
that one should receive after an act. The social cognitive learning theory approach takes thought
processes into account and acknowledges the role that they play in deciding if a behavior is to
be imitated or not. As such, social cognitive learning theory provides a more comprehensive
explanation of human learning by recognizing the role of mediational processes such as
attention phase, retention, reproduction and motivational stages. The phases all are a clear
demonstration of the active role that a learner plays and undergoes through the processes of
social behavior acquisition process.Bandula has enlightened most psychologists that behavioral
observation to a larger extent as well contributes to how human beings grow socially. However,
although the theory can explain some quite complex behavior it cannot adequately account for
how we develop a whole range of behavior including thoughts and feelings.
Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of Models Reinforcement Contingencies on the Acquisition of
Imitative Responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 589-595.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory.
New York: Prentice-Hall.

Mayer, G. R. (1986). Achieving Educational Excellence Using Behavioural Strategies. San

Marcos: Western Image.

Thoron, A. (2006). Psychology in the Work Context (3rd Ed). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Woolfolk, A. (2004). Education Psychology (9th Ed). New Delhi: Pearson Education.