Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory Term Paper

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dominant models of human behavior by the late 1950s and early 1960s were based on Neo-Freudian models and B.F. Skinner's brand of operant behaviorism. However, there were theorists that rejected the mechanistic views of behaviorism and Freudian instinct-drive-based models. Perhaps the most influential of these theorists was Albert Bandura. Bandura had received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and had been exposed to the work of Robert Spears who was studying familial influences of social behavior and identification in children. Bandura was also heavily influenced by other theorists at Iowa such as James Dollard and Neal Miller who had merged Freudian and Hullian learning principles. Bandura believed that learning principles were sufficient to explain and predict behavior, but he also believed that humans thought and regulated their behavior and were not at the mercy of environmental stimuli as in Skinnerian models of behavior. Furthermore, he believed that many functions of personality and learning involve interactions with other people and therefore any theory of personality or of learning should take interpersonal factors into account.

Bandura's social learning theory is based heavily on the ground breaking notions of Kurt Lewin (1943) and his Field Theory. Lewin's Field Theory was radical for its time given Freudian notions of behavior that dominated, but by today's standards his ideas seem obvious. Lewin developed the famous B = f (P, E) formula that states behavior is a function of the person and the environment. Bandura's notion of reciprocal determinism (Bandura, 1978) improves on Lewin's concept by maintaining the three factors of B, P, and E. By adding reciprocal lines of influence. Thus, the person has direct influences on the environment and his/her behavior and both can directly influence the person. Likewise the environment and the person's behavior also directly and reciprocally influence one another (see Figure 1).

Bandura believed that this reciprocal determinism, the idea that people influence their fate by controlling environmental forces but are also influenced by them, was the basic principle in his social learning theory (Bandura, 1997b). Moreover, Bandura departed from the traditional views of behaviorists in asserting that learning could occur without a change in one's behavior and without direct reinforcement.

In spite of the reciprocal influences of behavior, environment, and personal factors Bandura also understood that must be a center to the process. Bandura termed this center the self-system (Bandura, 1978). This self-system refers to a set of cognitive structures that effects perception and evaluation of the person, environment, self and others' actions and also and the regulation of one's behavior. In a sense there are reciprocating factors within the self-system. The self-system engages in constant monitoring of the self and environment. People evaluate themselves, their actions, and their goals based on their experience. These evaluations lead to important expectations. Bandura defined outcome expectations as estimates that one's actions will lead to specific outcomes, which are often learned. These outcome expectations are heavily influenced by internal notions of self-efficacy, one's perception of how well or poorly one can function in a given situation (Bandura, 1977a). The concepts of self-efficacy and outcome expectations are key components to behavioral change and to learning. The other important self-efficacy expectation in Bandura's social learning theory is the belief that a person can effectively perform the behavior required to produce the desired outcome (efficacy expectations).

Bandura viewed efficacy expectations as an important part of adaptation and coping. For example, Bandura (1982) compared group and person performances at on tasks at different levels of perceived self-efficacy and found that there was a direct relationship between self-efficacy and performance such that higher levels of perceived self-efficacy were associated with higher levels of performance. However, this is a relationship that could be explained either way: self-efficacy could lead to higher performance or better performers have greater levels of perceived self-efficacy. When self-efficacy of the individual or the group was increased performance subsequently increased at both the group and individual levels, indicating that perceived self-efficacy affects performance. Bandura, Adams, Hardy, and Howells, (1980) provided clinical support for increasing self-efficacy in the treatment of anxiety. People with agoraphobia were subjected to cognitive-behavioral treatment that increased their perceptions of being able to leave their homes safely and this was associated with a significant increase in their leaving their homes alone and performing daily activities such as shopping.

Bandura saw reinforcement as a causal mechanism of learning; however, he also maintained that we can learn by being reinforced for something, observing someone else perform, by vicarious reinforcement (by observing a model being reinforced), or without reinforcement at all (Bandura, Adams, & Beyer, 1977). Bandura believed that much learning occurs through the expectation of reinforcement by noting how others are reinforced or not reinforced for their actions. These observations lead to cognitive expectations as to the results of one's behavior. Reinforcement guides learning and behavior based on the anticipatory outcomes one has and learning is not always accomplished by direct reinforcement in the Skinnerian sense. These expectations can lead to developing other expectations about the consequences or outcomes of future actions based on past actions. Through interactions with socializing agents such as parents, peers, teachers, etc. people develop internalized behavioral standards and learn to reward themselves by self-approval or to degrade themselves by self-criticism. These anticipatory and internal self-reinforcing mechanisms guide behavior, foster new learning, and maintain consistency with established behaviors.

Bandura's social leaning theory then expanded the boundaries of what constitutes or defines reinforcement. Observers can be reinforced by a model such as when we adopt attitudes and the behaviors of peers. Observers can be reinforced by a third party as when we model the behavior of another such as an older sibling and are given praise by a parent. The modeled behavior can result in reinforcing consequences. For example, a person could observe how exercise such as bike riding is fun and starts riding a bike to receive enjoyment.

Bandura's social learning theory also places a great deal of emphasis on vicarious learning and on observational learning, learning by watching a model perform a task. In possibly his most famous study Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1961) demonstrated that children can learn merely by watching others and without having seen the model being reinforced for their behavior. A group of nursery school children, one at a time, observed an adult model perform a series of aggressive acts on a large rubber inflatable doll (the acts were both physically and verbally aggressive), whereas a second group of children (again one at a time) watched an adult model sit in the room with the doll and perform no action. A third group of children had no model and just viewed a room full of toys that also contained the rubber doll (this is the famous Bobo doll experiment). Afterwards each child was subjected to mild frustration by placing them alone in a room full of toys and first allowing them to play with the toys but after a few minutes prohibiting them to play with them. Then when the children were again allowed to play with the toys their behavior was observed and coded. The behaviors of the children tended to mimic the model to which they were previously exposed. Children observing the aggressive model acted significantly more aggressively towards the dolls than children observing the passive model. Furthermore, children observing the passive model acted even less aggressively than children who observed no model at all. There was also a gender effect such that same gender models and observers demonstrated stronger associations with aggressive actions and male children behaved overall more aggressively than female children. Bandura's conclusion was that the performance or learning of novel responses by a person as a result of solely watching someone else perform them is possible only because of the cognitive abilities people possess (even children). Later, this concept of learning via modeling would be expanded. Bandura found that people can combine and transform what they observe to develop novel or innovative behaviors based on observations. For example, a child may observe that when his older brother gets angry he does not express anger overtly but speaks in a slow-paced and low-toned voice, but when his father gets angry he becomes sarcastic and speaks loud tone. The child may combine these behaviors to produce his/her own form of self-expression.

Bandura maintained that modeling can result in learning through four different routes: 1) modeling teaches the observer new behaviors; 2) modeling can influence the frequency that previously learned behaviors will occur; 3) unfortunately, modeling may encourage previously forbidden or discouraged behaviors such as adolescent smoking or aggression; and 4) modeling can lead to an increase in the frequency of similar behaviors. For instance someone may view a person or friend excel in academics in school and attempt to excel in sports because he does not believe that he can perform as well academically (Bussey & Bandura, 1999). Not only novel behaviors are modeled. Observing a model may result in the extraction of behaviors already in the observer's…[continue]

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