Profile: Albert Bandura
Social Learning Theory

Overview: The social learning theory of Bandura emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Bandura states: "Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action." Because it includes attention, memory and motivation, social learning theory spans both cognitive and behavioral frameworks.

Bandura's theory improves upon the strictly behavioral interpretation of modeling provided by Miller & Dollard. Bandura’s work is related to the theories of Vygotsky and Lave which also emphasize the central role of social learning.

Scope: Social learning theory has been applied extensively to the understanding of aggression and psychological disorders, particularly in the context of behavior modification. It is also the theoretical foundation for the technique of behavior modeling which is widely used in training programs. In recent years, Bandura has focused his work on the concept of self-efficacy.

Example: Common examples of social learning situations are television commercials. Commercials suggest that wearing certain clothes or drinking a certain beverage will make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people. The advertiser’s hope is that we will model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised.

Principles:
1. The highest level of observational learning is achieved by organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior and then enacting it. Coding modeled behavior into words, labels or images results in better retention than simply observing.
2. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes they value.
3. Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the model is similar to the observer and has admired status and the behavior has functional value.


Four Essential Questions -- Bandura


1. Is learning a solitary activity, undertaken by an individual, or is learning a social activity, something done by a group within a context?

Learning is a social activity. Individuals can generate new knowledge and competencies by observing, and modeling the behavior of others. Most of the images of reality on which we base our actions are really based on vicarious experience.

However, an individuals’ beliefs about their own efficacy affect the sorts of choices they make in very significant ways. In particular, it affects their levels of motivation and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Most success requires persistent effort, so low self-efficacy becomes a self-limiting process. In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, strung together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.

Social cognitive theory -- the social portion of the title acknowledges the social origins of much human thought and action; the cognitive portion recognizes the influential contribution of individual cognitive processes to human motivation, affect, and action.

2. Is learning primarily focused on the transmission of facts and information or is it focused on the development of understanding of concepts and new knowledge?

Learning is most definitely focused on the development of understanding of concepts and new knowledge. The content of most textbooks is perishable but the tools of self-directedness serve one well over time. The environment one is raised in may influence later behaviors, just as a father's mindset (also cognition) will determine the environment in which his children are raised. People are producers as well as products of their environment.

People are self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating, not just reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by environmental forces or driven by concealed inner impulses. Human functioning is the product of a dynamic interplay of personal, behavioral, and environmental influences.

3. Is our goal as educators to prepare an individual who can recall sets of information or develop groups of individuals who can apply the information to as yet unsolved problems?

Most definitely the latter. By drawing on their symbolic capabilities, people can comprehend their environment, construct guides for action, solve problems cognitively, support forethoughtful courses of action, gain new knowledge by reflective thought, and communicate with others at any distance in time and space. By symbolizing their experiences, people give structure, meaning, and continuity to their lives. A much more important skill than recalling sets of perishable information.

4. Does development precede learning, or does learning precede development?

These factors are not static or independent, rather they are reciprocal. People learn by observing others, but the environment, behavior, and cognition are all factors in influencing development. For example, each behavior witnessed can change a person's way of thinking (cognition). Similarly, the environment one is raised in may influence later behaviors, just as a father's mindset (also cognition) will determine the environment in which his children are raised.

An observed behavior can change a person's way of thinking (cognition). Similarly, the environment one is raised in may influence later behaviors, just as a father's mindset (also cognition) will determine the environment in which his children are raised







Notes

· Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925, in Mundare, a small hamlet of some 400 inhabitants, largely immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, in northern Alberta, Canada, about 50 miles east of Edmonton.
· Young Bandura's elementary and high school years were spent at the one and only school in town, which being woefully short of teachers and resources left learning largely to the students' own initiative. For example, the entire curriculum of his high school mathematics class comprised a single textbook, which one beleaguered teacher endeavored to read ahead of her small but bright class of students.
· The students had to take charge of their own education," Bandura recalls. "Very often we developed a better grasp of the subjects than the overworked teachers." Although far off the path to academe, the school spawned an atypical class of graduates, virtually all of whom went on to attend universities throughout the world. For Bandura, the paucity of educational resources turned out to be an enabling factor that served him well rather than an insurmountable handicapping one. "The content of most textbooks is perishable," he observed, "but the tools of self-directedness serve one well over time."
· Bandura went westward to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Explained Bandura, "My parents encouraged me to expand my experiences ... they essentially presented me with two options: I could either remain in Mundare, till the farmland, play pool and drink myself to oblivion in the beer parlor, or I might try to get a higher education.
· Within three years (in 1949), he graduated with the Bolocan Award in psychology. The impact of his accidental entrance into the world of psychology would influence his theorizing later. In his 1982 article "The Psychology of Chance Encounters and Life Paths," he discussed how personal initiative often places people into circumstances where fortuitous events can shape the courses lives take. Rather than treating fortuity as uncontrollability, Bandura focused on how to make chance work for one through self-development to exploit fortuitous opportunities.
· The Department of Psychology at Iowa was a lively place at the time, providing admirable examples of superb scholars and dedicated researchers (including Kurt Lewin). Fundamental problems in learning were being investigated with fervor, competing theories were being put to stringent tests, and the annual excursions to meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association resembled missionary ventures.
· "Seeking relief from an uninspiring reading assignment, a graduate student departs for the golf links with his friend. They happen to find themselves playing behind a twosome of attractive women golfers. Before long the two twosomes become one foursome and, in the course of events, one of the partners eventually becomes the wife of the graduate golfer." Bandura was later to write, "I met my wife in a sand trap!" The attractive young woman destined to become Bandura's lifelong partner was Virginia Varns, who was on the teaching staff of the College of Nursing.
· M.A. degree in 1951 and his Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Iowa in 1952
· Virginia and Albert married in 1952 and became parents to two daughters, Mary, who was born in 1954, and Carol, born in 1958.
· In 1953, Bandura joined the faculty at Stanford University “As I reflect on this transforming journey it feels like a surreal Odyssey from a remote hamlet in Northern Alberta to the balmy palms of Stanford in a brief six years.”
· Bandura's first book, Adolescent Aggression (1959) and to a subsequent book several years later, Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis (1973).
· social cognitive theory -- the social portion of the title acknowledges the social origins of much human thought and action; the cognitive portion recognizes the influential contribution of individual cognitive processes to human motivation, affect, and action.


** This profile was created for participation in an online discussion “in character.”
Proper sources were not maintained as it wasn’t developed to be turned in as a paper.