Study Notes

Learning Approaches - Social Learning Theory

AS, A Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Social Learning Theory is concerned with how people learn when they observe others. It can be seen as a bridge between the Behaviourist approach and the Cognitive approach.

Like the Behaviourist approach, it emphasises the importance of environment and reinforcement in learning, but like the Cognitive approach it acknowledges the important role that mental processes play in interpreting the environment and planning new actions even though it does not study them in detail.

Key features of Social Learning Theory are:

  • Human learning is explained through observational learning or modelling, which involves identification, imitation and reinforcement.
  • Mediating cognitive factors play an important role in observational learning. These include attention, retention, reproduction and motivation.
  • In vicarious reinforcement, reproduction of behaviour can be motivated when learners observe role models receiving reinforcement.
  • The majority of Social Learning Theory research involves laboratory experiments in which quantifiable behaviour is observed.

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