What Is the General Principles of Social Learning Theory?

Social learning theory, developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, is a theory that emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. It suggests that learning can occur through direct experiences or by observing others.

Principle 1: Observational Learning

Social learning theory posits that individuals learn by observing others. This process is known as observational learning or modeling. By watching others perform a behavior and noting the consequences of that behavior, individuals can learn how to perform the behavior themselves.


Imagine a child watching their parent tie their shoelaces. The child observes the precise sequence of movements required to tie shoelaces and then attempts to imitate it themselves.

Principle 2: Reinforcement

In social learning theory, reinforcement plays a crucial role in shaping behavior. Reinforcement refers to the consequences that follow a particular behavior, which can be positive or negative. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of a behavior being repeated, while negative reinforcement decreases it.


If a student receives praise from their teacher for completing homework on time, they are more likely to repeat this behavior in the future. The positive reinforcement of praise increases the likelihood of them continuing to complete their homework on time.

Principle 3: Vicarious Reinforcement

Vicarious reinforcement involves observing another individual being reinforced for a particular behavior. When individuals see others being rewarded for their actions, they are more likely to imitate those actions themselves.


If a child witnesses their friend receiving praise and recognition from their teacher for helping another student, the child is more likely to help others as well to seek similar positive reinforcement.

Principle 4: Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their own abilities to successfully perform a behavior. According to social learning theory, self-efficacy plays a significant role in determining whether individuals will engage in a behavior or not.


If a person believes they are capable of speaking in public and receiving positive feedback, they are more likely to engage in public speaking. However, if someone lacks confidence in their public speaking abilities, they may avoid such situations.

Principle 5: Identification

Identification occurs when an individual models their behavior after someone they admire or view as similar to themselves. This process often involves adopting the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the person being observed.


A child may identify with their favorite athlete and strive to emulate their playing style and work ethic. By observing and imitating the athlete’s actions, the child hopes to achieve similar success.

In conclusion, social learning theory proposes that people learn from observing others and that reinforcement and self-efficacy play significant roles in shaping behavior. By understanding these general principles, we can gain insights into how individuals acquire new behaviors and beliefs through social learning.