Social learning theory is a concept that explains how people learn through observation, imitation, and modeling. This theory was first introduced by Albert Bandura in the 1960s and has since become an important aspect of psychology. In this article, we will discuss the three main concepts of social learning theory.

Observational Learning

Observational learning is the process of learning by observing others. This means that individuals can learn new behaviors and skills by watching others perform them. According to social learning theory, observational learning occurs when individuals pay attention to the behavior of others, retain that information in memory, and later reproduce it.

Example: A child who watches their parent cook a meal may later be able to reproduce that same meal themselves.


Modeling is closely related to observational learning. It involves not only observing the behavior of others but also imitating it. Individuals are more likely to model behavior that they perceive as successful or rewarding.

Example: A child may model their parent’s behavior of saying “please” and “thank you” when ordering food at a restaurant because they have seen their parent receive positive reactions from servers.

Vicarious Reinforcement

Vicarious reinforcement is another key concept in social learning theory. It refers to the idea that individuals can learn from the consequences of others’ behavior without personally experiencing those consequences themselves. For example, if an individual observes someone else being praised for performing a certain behavior, they are more likely to perform that same behavior themselves in hopes of receiving similar praise.

Example: A student who observes their classmate receiving praise from their teacher for completing homework on time may be more motivated to complete their own homework on time in hopes of receiving similar praise.

In Conclusion

Social learning theory provides valuable insights into how people learn. Observational learning, modeling, and vicarious reinforcement are all important concepts that help explain how individuals can acquire new skills and behaviors through observation and imitation. By understanding these concepts, individuals can better understand their own learning processes and potentially improve them.