Research Methods in the Social Learning Theory
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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
The majority of research done in the Social Learning Theory involves laboratory experiments on children.
This is a strength because it allows strict control of variables and cause and effect can be seen clearly.
For example, in Bandura, Ross & Ross (1961), the behaviours produced by the children were clearly categorised, inter-rater reliability was tested and there was good agreement between observers. Because all children experienced the same rooms and same toys, the effect of the different models was clear.
However, the scenarios used in the experiments are often artificial. For example, in Bandura, Ross & Ross (1961) it is unlikely that children would normally see an adult bashing a Bobo doll or be placed in a situation where they could imitate it immediately afterwards. The children may have been affected by demand characteristics and just done what they thought they were supposed to do.
In response, Social Learning could argue that its laboratory studies are often supported by natural observations.
For example, in a large scale observation of book carrying behaviour, Jenni & Jenni (1976) noted that girls switched to using a female carrying style before it could be explained by physical changes at puberty and concluded that this was likely to be caused by modelling.