Mediating cognitive factors are internal mental processes that lie between the stimulus and response. In Social Learning Theory, these are the factors that affect whether learners identify with models, imitate them and how they respond to reinforcement.
Bandura refers to Attention factors, Retention factors, Reproduction factors and Motivation factors.
Factors that influence whether a learner pays attention to a role model. These may include the learner’s interpretation of the role model’s power, attractiveness and similarity.
Factors that influence whether a learner identifies with a role model and remembers the behaviours their role model produces. These include the appropriateness of the behaviour to the role model.
Factors that influence whether a learner believes they should imitate the behaviour they have acquired. These includes physical ability, but also the learner’s self esteem and self-efficacy.
Factors that influence how a learner responds to reinforcement. These can include responses to past experience and expectations about future benefits.
The role of these mediating processes has been shown in various studies.
Perry and Bussey (1979) showed the importance of similarity in attention. They showed children same sex and opposite sex adult models picking fruit and found that children tended to pick the same fruit as their same sex models.
Masters et al (1979) showed that appropriateness was important in retention, because children were more influenced by whether a toy was labelled as a girls or boys than by the sex of the model who played with it.
Bandura (1977) observes that people with higher self-efficacy believe they can exert more control over their lives; they may try to imitate more complex behaviour and make more effort to succeed.
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