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Social learning theory states that we learn behaviours (including eating behaviours) by imitating successful role models. SLT states that observational learning can take place, and that this is reinforced vicariously. Vicarious reinforcement occurs when we see another person (the role model) rewarded for a particular behaviour. This observation of the consequences of their behaviour makes it more likely a person will imitate their behaviour. In relation to anorexia nervosa, important role models might be mothers, peers or celebrities in the media. Research has shown that mothers who complain about their weight are more likely to have children who have their own weight concerns. It has also been shown that the portrayal of thin models on television and in magazines is a significant contributory factor in body image concerns and pressure for Western adolescent girls to want to be thin. For example, Grabe et al. (2008) found that exposure to media images depicting the thin-ideal body is related to body image concerns for women.

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