Difference Between Social Learning Theory And Differential Association Theory

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The Differential Association Theory is defined as, “Criminological Theory devised by Edwin Sutherland asserting that criminal behavior is behavior learned through association with others who communicate their values and attitudes.” (Walsh & Hemmens, 2014). This theory highlights the reasoning behind what makes criminal behaviors occur and why people commit criminal acts in a way that neglects psychological concepts and principles. The Social Learning Theory is defined as, “A theory designed to explain how people learn criminal behavior using the psychological principles of operant conditioning.” This theory explains the ways in which people learn to commit criminal acts and behaviors, unlike Differential Association Theory which describes a …show more content…
The main similarity is that they both share common principles (differential association, imitation, and definitions), however they do not share the idea of “differential reinforcement.” The main difference between the two theories is the fact that Sutherland created a theory that is strictly Sociological, whereas Akers’ theory is psychological, which is what Sutherland was steering away from when creating his theory of Differential Association. One of the other main differences between the two theories is that Differential Association explains the “why” of criminal behaviors and Social Learning explains the “how” of the same criminal behaviors. “Social Learning Theory and Differential Association Theory are identical in that they maintain that the same learning process produces both conforming and deviant behavior. The difference is that for some, the processes move in prosocial directions and for others, in antisocial directions.” (Walsh & Hemmens, 2014). This quote describes the ways in which people can experience the same situation, such as the “teen arrest” quote stated previously, but the consequences (reward or punishment) will have a different impact on the person. The impact of the consequences (reward or punishment) will mold the individual into performing “conforming” or “deviant” behaviors. The theories are similar in the ways they attempt to explain deviant and/or criminal behaviors in a way that contradicts psychology or biology as the only explanations of criminal behaviors. Sutherland’s ability to eliminate psychology from his theory of Differential Association created a way of explaining and theorizing criminal behaviors as a more understandable concept. Some aspects of psychology can make concepts less understandable, as they become more conceptual and less

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