In the beginning of Psychology, an individual would be studied taking into consideration and believing that s/he is acting alone. However, in the rising of Psychology, researchers stated the importance of the social context and that it can have a major effect on the behavior of an individual. The Sociocultural level of Analysis studies the behavior of the individual not based on his biological processes but based on the social context s/he belongs to and how the society has affected the actions of the individual.
One of the most important theories under the Sociocultural level of Analysis is the social learning theory which was developed by Albert Bandura. The social learning theory explains that behavior is learnt by observing others. The theory states that people learn behavior through observational learning of social factors in environment. When people observe positive and desirable outcomes from a specific behavior, they are most likely to imitate and adopt that behavior.
Bandura stated that individuals observe behavior of others and see whether they are awarded or punished for that specific behavior. When they are awarded or even when the behaviors aren’t punished, the individual is most likely going to imitate the behavior. There are four different types of modeling, where modeling merans observing and imitating a behavior. The first type of modeling is direct modeling and it’s the simple imitation of a single behavior.
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The second type of modeling is the synthesized modeling which is the combination of more than one observed acts in order to create new complex behavior. The symbolic modeling is when real life human models are replaced by characters and finally the abstract modeling is the process of inferring the system of rules that underlie complex behaviors. Modeling which is observing and imitating behavior is made of four different steps. The first step is attention which is the process of observing a specific behavior.
Afterwards there’s retention which is the process of creating schemata for the observed behavior. Then, there’s the step of motoric reproduction of the observed behavior and the last step is motivation which is having a reason or a motive to adopt and imitate the same behavior that was observed. The social learning theory is connected with various principles under the sociocultural level of analysis. The first principle to which it is connected is the principle that states that humans are social animals and that they need to belong in a social group.
For example when there’s a social group that has a specific characteristic in their behavior that distincts this group from the rest, then in order to belong to this group you need to observe their behavior and imitate it. The second principle to which the social learning theory is connected, is the principle that states that culture affects behavior through norms. Therefore, the individual depending on the culture s/he belongs to observes the behavior of the majority which represents the norms of the society and by observing this behavior s/he imitates it since these norms are acceptable in the society.
A specific study conducted based on the social learning theory is the research study conducted by Bandura et al. Bandura supported that aggression is learnt from environment through observational learning and imitation and he wanted to conduct the “Bobo Doll experiment” in order to test this. The aim of the experiment was to see whether children will imitate aggressive behavior when they will have observed it and whether in the imitation the same sex models have any importance.
The procedure that he followed was that he made groups of students of 36 girls and 36 boys with an age between 3 and 6. Children were matched based on their aggression as it was reported by their parents and other family members. One group was exposed to adult models who showed aggressive behavior on a bobo doll , another group observed an adult who showed no aggressive behavior on the bobo doll and that person was assembling the toys for around 10 minutes and then there was a third group which was the control group and they did not see any aggressive behavior.
It is important to be stated that some children observed same sex adults and some opposite sex adults. After the observance of the behavior the children went in a room full of toys and they were told that they should not play with the toys since they were for other children and then they were put in a room with a bobo doll. Bandura et al observed that the children who had observed an aggressive behavior behaved more aggressively both physically and verbally.
Bandura stated that social learning was demonstrated in the study , since the subjects showed observational learning through the imitation of behavior of the adult and depending on what the subjects observed, an aggressive or non aggressive behavior they simply imitate that behavior when they are in a similar situation with the adult which was having the bobo doll in the room. The experiment conducted by Bandura had various strengths and limitations.
One of the strengths is the fact that there was a high control of the variables and it can give a cause and effect relationship. Another strength is the fact that the experiment was replicable and actually showed that those children that observed the aggressive behavior, they imitated it. A limitation is that the experiment was conducted under laboratory conditions and the the study lacks of ecological validity. Another limitation is that it’s not obvious whether the children were showing an aggressive behavior or just a harmless play with the bobo doll.
Also many ethical issues arise since the children where not allowed to play with the toys in the beginning which caused frustration of the subjects. The social learning theory has had applications in the every day life of the individuals. Through the social learning theory, people can understand the importance of their social background on their own behaviour, since behaviour of human beings is not studied separately anymore, but also taking into consideration the social context, since someone can observe and imitate behaviour within the society.
It can also provide with possible explanations for the existence of phobias and eating disorders and that by observing an individual with an eating disorder for example you will probably find out that s/he is the center of attention of others and since the result is quite desirable to a really big number of people, it is most probable that they will imitate the behaviour which led to this outcome. Similarly, the social learning theory can help in the education and the interaction between the teacher and the students.
When a student does not have an appropriate behaviour and the teacher always makes remarks of that student and that s/he should stop having that behaviour, if the behaviour is not punished by the teacher along with being the center of attention because of the continuous remarks of the teacher, it will make other students imitate the observed behaviour which has favourable outcomes to a really big number of them.
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