Key Approaches: the Social Learning Theory Debate Essay

636 Words Mar 12th, 2013 3 Pages
“Outline and evaluate social learning theory. In your answer, make comparisons with at least one other approach in psychology.” – 12 marks
Social learning theory states that behaviour is acquired through the observational learning from role models where a person identifies with that person and imitates their behaviour. This means that the behaviour of a model can influence the behaviour of all those that model the person and is particularly common with childhood celebrity role models.
When a person identifies with the role model, the cognitive factors to the learning occur in 4 key stages; attention when the individual notices the action, retention as the person memorises the behaviour, judgement whereby the person is receptive to if
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In addition, higher physical aggression was noted in boys than girls but not verbal aggression. It was also shown that with a male model that aggression increased for both sexes and children in the non-aggressive category demonstrated lower levels of aggression than children in the control group.
The study was conducted in a controlled environment so can be credited for reducing the possibility of extraneous variables, but as a result also could be criticised for the lack of ecological validity.
Another area of psychology where social learning theory can be observed is through gender formation when a child imitates the behaviour of their models, often shown through how they act and dress. For example, girls modelling their mother are often shown as playing with their mothers’ makeup sets and trying on various shoes, whereas boys can typically be seen playing football often with their father and friends of the same sex.
Many behaviourist theories are often very reductionist and do not consider the mediating cognitive factors, specifically in the acquisition of new behaviour and does not account for behaviour which has not been directly taught. For example, if a child see’s a juggler and attempts to copy the behaviour, behaviourism cannot explain why the child attempted to imitate the behaviour to begin with, whereas social learning theory can accredit it to the child modelling the juggler for having exceptional skills the child does not.
Overall, social learning

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