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The Significance of Social Learning Theories

The social learning theory developed by Albert Bandura, a social cognitive psychologist, is considered a contrasting perspective on understanding social learning as the process of observation, imitation, and modeling that shape human behavior. Bandura’s social learning theory argues that observational learning might pose a powerful impact enhanced when the observers assume that the person demonstrating the behavior is similar to themselves (Deming and Johnson, 2019). Therefore, Bandura’s social learning theory is crucial for understanding more complex social behaviors and human learning from social experiences. It is a substantial theoretical framework broadly applied in the current educational environment to comprehend students’ potential and help them attain it, given that learners imitate both other student and their teachers.

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Defining Bandura’s Concept of the Theory

As Bandura focuses on the pivotal role of environmental and cognitive factors, he states that such elements interact to influence human learning and behavior. The psychologist supports the learning theories elaborated by behaviorists regarding classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Nevertheless, Bandura aimed to expand the conceptual foundation of the social learning theory by adding two critical ideas to it (MacBlain, 2018). The first idea implies that mediating processes arise “between stimuli and responses” (Edinyang, 2016, p. 41). The second key point asserts that behavior learned by the individual comes from the environment within the observational learning.

In examining social learning, Bandura proposed the concept of social cognitive theory. In general, the underlying concept of the theory implies that the development of human cognition can be interpreted by the interplay of internal personal factors. The latter are presented in the form of “cognitive, affective and biological events, behavior, and environmental events” (Edinyang, 2016, p. 41). The psychologist performed his well-known experiment called the Bobo doll experiment to investigate behavior patterns by social learning theory. Moreover, similar behaviors were learned by individuals establishing their own behavior after the actions of models. The results obtained from Bandura’s experiment reveal that children learn and imitate the behaviors that they observe in other individuals (MacBlain, 2018). The psychologist believed that people have the capacity to learn new information and new behaviors by watching others and that direct reinforcements do not elucidate all types of learning. Bandura managed to alter the course of a modern psychological approach to explaining social learning concepts by shifting from pure behaviorism to cognitive.

Observation Learning, Imitation and Modeling Processes

According to the theory, individuals learn from each other in terms of three main processes, such as observation, imitation, and modeling. Based on the experiment, children observe the behavior and tend to learn from such observations. In addition, the consequent imitation process incorporates one’s “ability to replicate a behavior or action” (Edinyang, 2016, p. 42). The modeling process comprises four critical steps that affect and shape people’s social learning, including attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. More particularly, the individual must draw attention to the model first and must be capable to memorize the behavior watched. Thereafter, one must have the capacity to replicate that behavior and develop the motivation to demonstrate the learned behavior as a final step.

Conclusion: Significance of Social Learning Theory

To conclude, the social or observational learning theory designates that individuals learn new behaviors by observing others. It also pertains to the reciprocal relationship between social characteristics of the environment, the way individuals recognize them, and the extent of a person’s motivation and ability to reproduce behaviors they observe around themselves. Social learning theory underlined the changes in human behavior and learning experience through observation and imitation of the actions and conduct in the environment. Every educator must act as a good role model to facilitate students’ responsibility to imitate the model and related behaviors. With this said, the primary significance of the theory by Bandura implies that people might act as observers to acquire enduring attitudes, emotional reactions, and behavioral inclinations toward individuals, places, or objects associated with modeling.


Deming, P., & Johnson, L. L. (2019). An application of Bandura’s social learning theory: A new approach to deafblind support groups. JADARA, 42(4), 203–209. Web.

Edinyang, S. D. (2016). The significance of social learning theories in the teaching of social studies education. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Research, 2(1), 40–45.

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MacBlain, S. (2018). Learning theories for early years practice. SAGE.

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