Social Learning Theory is a psychological concept that explains how people learn new behaviors, attitudes, and values through observation, modeling, and imitation of others. This theory was first introduced by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s.

What is Social Learning Theory?

According to Social Learning Theory, people learn from each other through observation, imitation, and modeling. It means that an individual’s behavior can be influenced by watching other people’s actions and the consequences of those actions. The theory suggests that learning does not only occur through direct experience but also through indirect experience.


Observation is the first step in Social Learning Theory. People learn by observing others’ behaviors and actions. For example, if a child sees his/her parents smoking cigarettes regularly, he/she may also start smoking.


Once an individual observes others’ behaviors, they may try to imitate or replicate them. Imitation can be positive or negative depending on the behavior being observed.


Modeling refers to individuals’ efforts to replicate the behavior they observed from others with accuracy. For instance, if someone watched a professional basketball player’s game-winning shot technique and tried to replicate it with precision during their own basketball game.

The Four Processes of Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory involves four processes: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.


Attention involves focusing on the behavior being observed. The more attention paid to the behavior being modeled increases the likelihood of learning it.


Retention refers to the ability to remember what has been observed. People are more likely to retain information when it is repeated multiple times or when there is a personal relevance attached to it.


Reproduction involves actually replicating or performing the behavior that has been observed. This step can be challenging as it requires the individual to have the necessary skills to carry out the behavior.


Motivation refers to the drive or incentive behind replicating the observed behavior. It can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, while extrinsic motivation comes from external factors like rewards or punishments.

Examples of Social Learning Theory

There are several examples of Social Learning Theory in everyday life. One of the most common examples is how children learn new behaviors by observing and imitating their parents’ actions. For example, if a child sees their parent reading a book every night before bed, they may also develop a habit of reading before bed.

Another example is how people learn new skills through observation and imitation. For instance, someone who wants to learn how to cook may watch cooking videos online and try to replicate what they saw.


Social Learning Theory explains that people learn by observing others’ behaviors and actions. This theory’s four processes – attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation – explain how individuals acquire new skills and behaviors by observing others’ actions and consequences. By understanding this theory’s concepts, we can better understand how learning occurs in everyday life and apply it to our own learning experiences.