What Are the Three Core Concepts of the Social Learning Theory?


Jane Flores

The Social Learning Theory is a well-known psychological theory that emphasizes the importance of observational learning and social interaction in the acquisition of behaviors and beliefs. Developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1970s, this theory has had a significant impact on our understanding of how individuals learn and develop.

Three Core Concepts of the Social Learning Theory

The Social Learning Theory consists of three core concepts that are essential to understanding its principles and implications. These concepts are:

1. Observational Learning

Observational learning, also known as modeling or vicarious learning, is a process in which individuals learn by observing others’ behaviors, actions, and consequences. According to Bandura, people acquire new knowledge and skills not only through direct experience but also by observing others’ behavior. This concept suggests that we can learn from both positive and negative role models.

For example: If a child sees their parent being kind and helpful to others, they are likely to imitate that behavior. Conversely, if they witness aggression or violence from their peers, they may learn to behave similarly.

2. Reinforcement

In the context of the Social Learning Theory, reinforcement refers to the consequences that follow a behavior and influence its likelihood of reoccurrence. According to Bandura, reinforcement can be both extrinsic (external) or intrinsic (internal). Positive reinforcement increases the probability of a behavior occurring again, while negative reinforcement involves removing something unpleasant or aversive to strengthen a behavior.

For example: If a student receives praise or rewards for completing their homework on time, they are more likely to continue doing so in the future. On the other hand, if they face criticism or punishment for not completing assignments promptly, they may be discouraged from repeating this behavior.

3. Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to successfully perform a particular behavior or task. Bandura argued that self-efficacy plays a crucial role in motivation, learning, and achievement. When individuals have high self-efficacy, they are more likely to set challenging goals, persevere through obstacles, and achieve success.

For example: If a person believes they are capable of public speaking, they are more likely to actively seek opportunities to develop and improve their skills. Conversely, if someone has low self-efficacy in a certain area, they may avoid tasks related to it due to fear of failure.


The Social Learning Theory provides valuable insights into how individuals learn from their environment through observation, reinforcement, and the development of self-efficacy. By understanding these core concepts, we can better comprehend the complex nature of human behavior and the impact of social interactions on our learning experiences. Incorporating these principles into educational and social settings can enhance learning outcomes and promote positive behavioral change.