Essay Example on The Social Learning Theory SLT









The Social Learning Theory SLT is most commonly associated with Albert Bandura’s works Bandura was a professor at Stanford who saw limitations in the learning theory of behaviorism He incorporated ideas of the cognitive and behavioral learning theories Grusec 1992 and created the Social Learning Theory SLT suggests that gender identity and role are sets of behaviors obtained through observational learning and vicarious reinforcement As individuals and children in particular observe the environment around them they see and encode people s models behaviors with some of them relating to gender Bandura 1971 After observing various models children may not only imitate behaviors that are gender appropriate in the eyes of society but also some that are not For instance a girl may reenact swaddling her baby doll as she saw her mother doing so while a boy may try to put on makeup as he also observed his mother doing so A child is nevertheless more likely to reproduce gender appropriate behavior due to the fact that it will receive a reinforcement for his or her behavior from the people around it The reinforcement can be positive or negative in the form of praise or punishment McLeod 2011 The mother of the little girl will most likely praise her daughter for being such a good mommy to her baby whereas the little boy will be told by his father not to do this again Depending on the form of reinforcement the child will learn the behaviors accepted by society as gender appropriate In addition Bandura Ross and Ross 1961 found in their well known study Transmission Of Aggression 

Through Imitation Of Aggressive Models that children are more likely to imitate people who are similar to themselves for instance share the similarity of the same gender Consequently boys will be more likely to copy the behavior of male models whereas girls will tend to imitate female models When deciding whether or not to imitate a models actions a child will additionally take into account what happens to other people when behaving in particular ways Albert Bandura called this Vicarious reinforcement and it takes place when a child observes someone being rewarded for a specific behavior and is affected by this observation in the same way as if the child had displayed the behavior herself and had been rewarded for it This also applies to punishment if a child observes someone receiving a punishment for a specific behavior he or she will be les likely to imitate this particular behavior Albert Dorothea Sheila A 1963 Children may not only copy the behaviors and actions of models in their immediate world but also those of fantasy characters and individuals on television McLeod 2011 Children who consistently observe stereotypical gender behavior on television are likely to learn and act according to these gender typical behaviors A study conducted by Brown in 1956 as cited in McGhee Frueh 1980 clearly demonstrates a connection between observational learning in this case in the form of watching television and children displaying gender specific behavior in toy and activity preferences Bandura 1971 stated that the process of social learning requires four interrelated cognitive capacities 

Attention retention reproduction and motivation ARRM Firstly an individual must pay attention to a model s behavior e g a son observing his father s behavior Attention can be affected by factors such as power and attractiveness of the model Grusec 1992 Secondly the behavior and information observed has to be memorized by the child retention Thirdly the child imitates the father's behavior reproduction Last but not least reinforcement motivation is provided in the forms of either praise or punishment accomplishment or failure It is important to note that models can be modelling certain behaviors intentionally or unintentionally For instance a teacher models intentionally when solving an argument between children in a calm and understanding matter A famous teenage female singer may be modelling unintentionally when dressing and behaving inappropriately for her age yet both models will have the power to greatly shape a child's behavior and actions Critique The Social Learning Theory is clearly on the nurture side of the nature vs nurture debate regarding gender development Bandura s Social Learning Theory demonstrates how children are socialized to accept the standards and values of their society Grusec 1992 p 785 While Bandura s empirical contribution to our understanding of human development is extremely significant there are not only strengths but also weaknesses associated with SLT I see it as a clear strength that the social learning theory has been well researched documented and can be clearly observed in a scientific and objective mater Bandura's studies 1961 1971 amongst others clearly show the process of children learning through observation and imitating the behavior of their models Being a mother of two sons and teaching kindergarten children I witness children's observational learning on a daily base My three year old son for instance imitates nearly everything he observes in his brother From the sports he tries to play to the icons he talks about and the food he likes and dislikes everything is in accordance with his model 

Another strength of SLT is its easy understandability not only professionals of the field are able to understand and relate to the research but also everyone else Weaknesses include the fact that biological differences are not being taken into consideration and that the theory is lacking attention to the developmental changes occurring due to growing age and increasing maturity Grusec 1992 Additionally SLT fails to explain gender untypical behaviors and behavioral differences For instance why does a girl from a very calm and peaceful family display aggressive behavior even though she didn t observe it in her in immediate surroundings nor on television Conclusively the Social Learning Theory deserves great recognition as it provides a detailed explanation of human behaviors and learning processes including those regarding the development of gender

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