Social Learning Theory: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 The Bobo Doll Experiment
  • 1:03 Processes Involved in…
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alyssa Gilston
There are many ways in which human beings learn. One of the most effective ways is by watching, observing and modeling others, and this is known as social learning theory.

The Bobo Doll Experiment

Human beings have the ability to learn in a number of ways. In the field of psychology, many different theories have been developed that have focused on learning and how learning can allow a person to develop new skills and behaviors. A psychologist named Albert Bandura developed one of the most widely accepted theories, called Bandura's social learning theory.

In the early 1960s, Albert Bandura conducted a famous experiment called the Bobo doll experiment. In the experiment, he had children observe a video of an adult aggressively playing with toys, including a Bobo doll. A Bobo doll is basically a large blow-up doll that looks like a clown. The adult hit the Bobo doll, knocked it down and even jumped on it while yelling words like 'pow!' and 'kick him!' The children were then allowed to play with a variety of toys, including the Bobo doll, and results indicated that more than half of the children modeled the adult and engaged in the same aggressive behaviors with the Bobo doll. This modeling was called Bandura's social learning theory.

Processes Involved in Social Learning Theory

In order for social learning theory to be most effective, four processes need to occur. The four processes are attention, retention, reproduction and motivation.

Attention is an essential primary step in observational learning and is our ability to take notice or to take interest in something. In order for an individual to observe and learn, he or she must be able to hold attention to the model. There are several variables that can impact an observer's ability to maintain attention as well. These include how attractive the model is, how similar the model is to the observer and the liveliness of the model. For example, it's not hard to imagine one's desire to observe and then model an attractive athlete on a workout video or a pretty chef on the Food Network. We want to be like them, and they easily hold our attention.

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