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Albert Bandura: Social-Cognitive Theory and Vicarious Learning

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  • 0:13 Introduction
  • 0:30 Social Cognitive…
  • 5:28 Consequences in…
  • 8:21 Self-Efficacy and…
  • 9:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst
A person's cognition, environment and behavior play important roles in learning new knowledge and skills. This lesson will focus on Albert Bandura's contributions to social learning and vicarious experiences.

Introduction

Do you have a fear of snakes or perhaps other animals? Do you think that you could get over this fear by observing other people that had snake phobias? This is exactly the experiment that was conducted years ago to help the psychologist Albert Bandura understand the importance of behavioral models.

Social Cognitive Theory and Bandura

Bandura formed his social cognitive theory while observing patients with snake phobias
Bandura Snake Example

The psychologist Albert Bandura discovered the importance of behavioral models when he was working with patients with snake phobias. He found that the patients' observation of former patients handling snakes was an effective therapy. The patients in treatment abstracted the information that others who were like them handled snakes with no ill effects. These patients considered that information in reflecting on their own behavior. Bandura found that these observations were more effective in treating their phobias than persuasion and observing the psychologist handle the snakes.

Bandura's social learning theory stresses the importance of observational learning, imitation and modeling. His theory integrates a continuous interaction between behaviors, personal factors - including cognition - and the environment referred to as reciprocal causation model.

However, Bandura does not suggest that the three factors in the triadic model make equal contributions to behavior. The influence of behavior, environment and person depends on which factor is strongest at any particular moment.

In the model, B, or behavior, refers to things like complexity, duration, skill, etc. The E stands for environment, and it's comprised of the situation, roles, models and relationships. P, or person, is comprised mainly of cognition but also other personal factors such as self-efficacy, motives and personality.

Here's a classroom example to help make this point more clear. In the classroom as a teacher presents a lesson to the class, students reflect on what the teacher is saying. This is where the environment influences cognition, a personal factor. Students who don't understand a point raise their hands to ask a question. This is where personal factors influence behavior. So, the teacher reviews the point (behavior influences environment).

Bandura's most famous experiment was the 1961 Bobo Doll study. Briefly, he made a video in which an adult woman was shown being aggressive to a Bobo doll, hitting and shouting aggressive words.

Diagram of the reciprocal causation model
Reciprocal Causation Model

The film was shown to groups of children. Afterwards, the children were allowed to play in the room with the same doll. The children began imitating the model by beating up the doll and using similar, aggressive words. The study was significant because it departed from behaviorism's insistences that all behavior is directed by reinforcement or rewards. The children received no encouragement or incentives to beat up the doll; they were simply imitating the behavior they had observed.

Through the Bobo doll experiment and others, Bandura grounded his understanding of a model's primary function, which is to transmit information to the observer. This function occurs in any of three ways:

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