Psychology Topics

Social Learning Theory: Gender Development

Social Learning Theory states that individuals develop gender by imitating role models. SLT states that observational learning takes place, and that this learning is reinforced vicariously. Vicarious reinforcement occurs when a person witnesses a model being rewarded for behaving in a gender-appropriate way (e.g. a girl being praised for playing quietly with her dolls). Vicarious reinforcement makes it more likely that the model’s behaviour will be imitated in the future. According to Bandura, four mediational processes must occur for imitation of behaviour to take place: attention (an individual must pay attention to the model’s behaviour (e.g. boys must pay attention to male’s behavior and girls must pay attention to female’s behaviour); retention (individuals must code and store the observed gender-appropriate behaviour in long-term memory); reproduction (individuals must be capable of imitating the gender-appropriate behaviour); and motivation (individuals must have good reason for reproducing the gender-appropriate behaviour).

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