Social Cognitive Learning Theory: Observational Learning

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In this day and age, the terms “like mother, like daughter” or “following in this father’s footsteps” are commonly used when children display characteristics as seen in their parents that cause them to act in similar ways. You don’t have to look far beyond the walls of your own home to notice that children, especially ones in early developmental stages tend to mimic the words and actions of their parents. However, this brings about the question as to whether people inherit such traits that make them act like another person or if what they do and say are acquired by observational learning? Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1961) explains this phenomena using the Social Cognitive Learning Theory, also known as observational learning. True to its name,…show more content…
Unlike behaviourists like Skinner and Pavlov that believe that learning leads to permanent change, Bandura’s research strongly suggests that just because a person takes to learning something, it does not mean that the end result will be a change in behaviour. In the post experimental interviews conducted after Bandura’s experiment in 1965, it was found that “a number of the subjects in the latter group [model-punished condition] described … the model’s repertoire of aggressive responses with considerable accuracy” (Bandura, 1965, p. 590). This finding shows that they had actually learned the behaviour but it was not seen in their actions. To actually ensure that the modelling process is carried out well, there are certain steps that should be included. These steps include paying attention to the model as it is essential to learn. The next step is retention. Oxford’s online dictionary defines retention as “the fact of keeping something in one’s memory” (Hornby, 2005). We need to be able to retrieve information well in order to learn and imitate the learned behaviour. Reproduction of said action should follow after retention and this should be similar to the modelled action. Finally, motivation plays a big part in imitation of behaviour in terms of evaluating reinforcement or punishment for…show more content…
This means that the model believes that humans can act based on their own choices and are not just doing certain things against their own will like other behaviourists theories. For example, it differs from the deterministic theory of classical conditioning by Pavlov in which someone has no control over what happens when learning occurs through association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus to create a conditioned response (Pavlov, & Anrep, 2003). It is also useful in the 21st century, aiding in education or motivation and has contributed greatly to the past. In the past, aggression in young children were based on the Freudian theory of catharsis that modelled violence would decrease the need to be aggressive in children. Thus, airing of violent programmes were increased on television as it was thought of to help drain viewers’ aggressive drives (Zimmerman, & Schunk, 2003, as cited in Artino Jr). Bandura changed this view using observational learning and managed to help plenty of children. A weakness of this model, on the other hand, is that observation was used. Sure, can be said that observational methods are high in ecological validity as subjects are not aware that they are being watched and will act naturally but the question as to whether or not such methods are prone to observer and interpreter bias can be questioned. In addition to
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