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Social Learning Theory

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Autor:   •  August 12, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,177 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,260 Views

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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. Among others Albert Bandura is considered the leading proponent of this theory.

General principles of social learning theory follow:

1. People can learn by observing the behavior is of others and the outcomes of those behaviors.

2. Learning can occur without a change in behavior. Behaviorists 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 observation alone, their learning may not necessarily be shown in their performance. Learning may or may not result in a behavior change.

3. Cognition plays a role in learning. Over the last 30 years social learning theory has become increasingly cognitive in its interpretation of human learning. Awareness and expectations of future reinforcements or punishments can have a major effect on the behaviors that people exhibit.

4. Social learning theory can be considered a bridge or a transition between behaviorist learning theories and cognitive learning theories.

How the environment reinforces and punishes modeling:

People are often reinforced for modeling the behavior of others. Bandura suggested that the environment also reinforces modeling. This is in several possible ways:

1. The observer is reinforced by the model. For example 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.

2. The observer is reinforced by a third person. The observer might be modeling the actions of someone else, for example, an outstanding class leader or student. The teacher notices this and compliments and praises the observer for modeling such behavior thus reinforcing that behavior.

3. The imitated behavior itself leads to reinforcing consequences. Many behaviors that we learn from others produce satisfying or reinforcing results. For example, a student in my multimedia class could observe how the extra work a classmate does is fun. This student in turn would do the same extra work and also receive enjoyment.

4. Consequences of the model's behavior affect the observers behavior vicariously. This is known as vicarious reinforcement. This is where in the model is reinforced for a response and then the observer shows an increase in that same response. Bandura illustrated this by having students watch a film of a model hitting a inflated clown doll. One group of children saw the model being praised for such action. Without being reinforced, the group of children began to also hit the doll.

Contemporary social learning perspective of reinforcement and punishment:

1. Contemporary theory proposes that both reinforcement and punishment have indirect effects on learning. They are not the sole or main cause.

2. Reinforcement and punishment influence the extent to which an individual exhibits a behavior that has been learned.

3. The expectation of reinforcement influences cognitive processes that promote learning. Therefore attention pays a critical role in learning. And attention is influenced by the expectation of reinforcement. An example would be, where the teacher tells a group of students that what they will study next is not on the test. Students will not pay attention, because they do not expect to know the information for a test.

Cognitive factors in social learning:

Social learning theory has cognitive factors as well as behaviorist factors (actually operant factors).

1. Learning without performance: Bandura makes a distinction between learning through observation and the actual imitation of what has been learned.

2. Cognitive processing during learning: Social learning theorists contend that attention is a critical factor in learning.

3. Expectations: As a result of being reinforced, people form expectations about the consequences that future behaviors are likely to


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