How Did Bandura Come Up With Social Learning Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Albert Bandura is a renowned psychologist who is widely known for his contributions to the field of social learning theory. His theory emphasizes the role of observation and modeling in learning, which has been influential in understanding how people acquire new behaviors. In this article, we will explore how Bandura came up with this theory and what it entails.

Early Life and Education

Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925, in Mundare, a small town in Alberta, Canada. He grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the hardships that his family faced during that time. Despite these challenges, he excelled academically and went on to pursue higher education.

Bandura received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia in 1949. He then earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1951 and his Ph.D. from the same university in 1952.

Bobo Doll Experiment

One of Bandura’s most famous experiments is the Bobo doll experiment. In this study, children were shown a video of an adult aggressively interacting with a Bobo doll by hitting and punching it. Later, when given the chance to play with the doll themselves, many children imitated the aggressive behavior they had seen.

This experiment showed that children could learn new behaviors through observation and modeling. It also demonstrated that aggression could be learned through exposure to violent behavior.

Social Learning Theory

Building on his Bobo doll experiment, Bandura developed social learning theory. This theory posits that people learn new behaviors by observing others and imitating their actions. Social learning theory also emphasizes the importance of reinforcement in shaping behavior.

According to Bandura’s theory, reinforcement can be either positive or negative. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behavior while negative reinforcement involves punishing unwanted behavior.

Applications of Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s social learning theory has been applied in many fields, including education, psychology, and criminology. In education, teachers can use modeling to teach students new skills and behaviors. In psychology, therapists can use modeling to help clients overcome phobias or other fears.

In criminology, social learning theory has been used to understand why people commit crimes. It suggests that criminal behavior can be learned through exposure to other criminals and the reinforcement of criminal behavior.


Albert Bandura’s contributions to the field of psychology have been significant. His Bobo doll experiment and subsequent development of social learning theory have helped us understand how people learn new behaviors. The theory’s emphasis on observation and modeling has led to its widespread application in many fields.