Albert Bandura – Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura Social Learning Theory

Who is Albert Bandura?


Albert Bandura is a renowned psychologist knwon fo his work on social learning theory and the concept of self-efficacy. 

As a result, his research explores how people learn from observing others and how their beliefs about their own abilities influence their behavior.


Albert Bandura – Social Learning Theory


Bandura’s social learning theory assets that individuals learn by obseving and imitating other’s behaviors, with cognitive processes playing a crrucial role in this learning process. 


Observational Learning:


Observational learning is a type of learning in which individuals acquire new knowlege, skills or behaviors by observing and imitating the actions of others.

For example, watching older sibling tying a shoelace and learning


Vicarious Reinforcement:


Learning by observng the behavior of other people and the consequences of that behavior.

An example of vicarious reinforcement is:

  • Imagine a toddler observing the older sibling tying a shoelace 
  • The older sibling is then praised by parents 

As a result, the toddler is more likely to imitate the behavior they have witnessed that leads to being rewarded by parents – this is vicarious reinforcement.


Modeling: The basis of observational learning


What is modeling?


A behavior-modification process of learning by observing the behaviors and actions of others, known as “models”. It involves paying close attention to how these models behave and the outcomes of their actions.

Individuals then imitate or replicate these observed behaviors, which can result in the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, or behaviors leading to behavioral modeling. 


Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment


Albert Bandura conducted a bobo doll experiment in the 1960s, was a groundbreaking study in the field of psychology. It examined the role of observational learning and aggression in children. 

In this study, preschool children were exposed to a video of an adult model aggressively interacting with a Bobo Doll, a large inflatable doll. The adult was hitting and kicking the doll. While attacking the doll, the adult model shoute, “Throw him in the air!”

 When the children were left alone with the doll, they modeled their behavior after the example they had just witnessed. Their behavior was compared with that of the control group of children who had not seen the model attack the Bobo doll. The experimental group was found to be more aggressive that the control group.

The Bobo Doll experiment provided compelling evidence that children could learn aggressive behaviors through observation. This raised significant concerns about the influence of media violence on child behavior.


Characteristics of the model:

According to Albert Bandura, here are the characteristics of a model that can affect modeling.

1. Similarity: 

We tend to model those who appear to be similar to us in any manner than those who differ from us.

The extent of the modeling decreases as the similarity between the model and the subject decreases.


2. Age and gender of the model


We are more likely to model our behavior after a person of the same gender than other. Same goes for the age.


3. Status and authority:


Models with social status, authority, or expertise in a particular domain can be highly influential. 

For example, pedestrians are much more likely to cross a street against a red light if they see a well-dressed person crossing than if they see a poorly dressed person crossing. 


4. Type of behavior displayed by the model: 


Positive behaviors tend to be more readily imitated, driven by the promise of positive outcomes and social approval. Negative behaviors may or may not be imitated, depending on the presence of reinforcement and the awareness of potential negative consequences. 




Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their own capability to perform a specific task or accomplish a particular goal. It’s essentially a person’s confidence in their ability to succeed in a given situation.

Imagine you have a strong interest in learning to play the guitar, but you have never played a musical instrument before. Your self-efficacy beliefs will influence your approach to this new endeavor


High Self-efficacy:


If you believe you have the capability to learn and succeed in playing the guitar, you are likely to approach the task with enthusiasm and determination. You might practice regularly, seek out lessons, and persist through challenges because you are confident in your ability to improve.


Low Self-efficacy:


If you doubt your ability to learn the guitar, you may approach the task with hesitation or avoidance for example thinking that you will never be able to do this.


Albert Bandura social learning theory

Ways of increasing Self-Efficacy:

According to Albert Bandura, you can increase self-efficacy in four ways.

  1. Setting achievable Goals: When we set goals that we can actually reach, we are more likely to do well and achieve those goals
  2. Learning from successful people: When we watch people who are good at something and do it well, it can inspire us to believe that we can do it too.
  3. Encouraging words: When others say positive things to us and tell us we are capable of doing something, it can boost our confidence in ourselves.
  4. Taking care of our body and mind: If we eat healthy, reduce stress, and exercise, it makes our bodies stronger, gives us more energy and helps us handle challenges better.


Collective Efficacy:


Briefly, Collective efficacy refers to a community or group’s hsred belief in their ability to work together effectively to achieve common goals and solve common problems. It encompasses the confidence that members have in each other’s capabilities and the belief that their collaborative efforts will lead to positive outcomes. 

An example of self-efficacy could be a basketball team, a large organization, a military combat unit etc.


Albert Bandura VS B.F. Skinner


Albert Bandura and Skinner both agreed that the behavior is learned, but with that point their similarity ends. 

Bandura thought Skinner focused too much on studying animals in isolated settings, like a mouse in a cage, instead of looking at how people interact with each other in the real world. Bandura’s theory is all about understanding how people learn and change their behavior in social situations.

He argued that studying behavior in isolation does not really tell us much about how people behave in everyday life because most people don’t live in complete isolation. So, Bandura emphasized the importance of studying behavior in social contexts to better understand how we learn and behave in real-world situations, unlike B.F. Skinner.


Final Words:


In conclusion, in a world where social influences are found everywhere, Albert Bandura’s insights, such as social learning theory, self-efficacy, observational learning continue to be relevant. His work reminds us of the profound impact of our environment, the models we observe, and the confidence we hold in ourselves about our abilities. 

Moreover, Albert Bandura’s legacy extends beyond psychology, influencing education, therapy, and our understanding of human potential, making him a central figure in the study of behavior and learning. 

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