Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory

What Is Social Learning Theory?

Social learning theory combines cognitive learning theory (which posits that learning is influenced by psychological factors) and behavioral learning theory (which assumes that learning is based on responses to environmental stimuli). Psychologist Albert Bandura integrated these two theories and came up with four requirements for learning: observation (environmental), retention (cognitive), reproduction (cognitive), and motivation (both). This integrative approach to learning was called social learning theory. 

Bandura developed what famously became known as the Bobo Doll experiments. In these studies, children watched adults model either violent or passive behavior towards a toy called Bobo Doll, and what they saw influenced how they subsequently interacted with the dolls. Children who observed violent behavior imitated this behavior and were verbally and physically aggressive toward the doll. Children who witnessed nonviolent behavior behaved less aggressively toward the doll. Bandura concluded that children learn aggression, violence, and other social behaviors through observation learning, or watching the behaviors of others.

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