When Was Social Learning Theory Created?


Martha Robinson

When Was Social Learning Theory Created?

The social learning theory, also known as the social cognitive theory, was created in the early 1960s by renowned psychologist Albert Bandura. This theory revolutionized the field of psychology by emphasizing the role of observation and modeling in learning and behavior.

The Origins of Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s social learning theory was influenced by various psychological concepts, including behaviorism and cognitive psychology. Behaviorism focused on studying observable behaviors and the environmental factors that influence them, while cognitive psychology examined mental processes such as thinking and memory.

Bandura believed that behavior is learned through a combination of personal factors (such as thoughts and emotions) and environmental factors (such as rewards and punishments). He proposed that individuals learn not only through direct experience but also by observing others.

The Key Principles of Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory is based on several key principles:

  • Observational Learning: Individuals learn by observing others’ behaviors, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. They can acquire new knowledge or skills simply by watching someone else perform a task or engage in a particular behavior.
  • Modeling: When individuals observe others being rewarded or punished for their actions, they are more likely to imitate those behaviors. Bandura referred to individuals who serve as models for others as “role models” or “influencers.

  • Vicarious Reinforcement: Individuals are more likely to imitate behaviors that have been rewarded rather than punished. This concept suggests that seeing others being reinforced for their actions increases the likelihood of similar actions being performed.
  • Cognitive Processes: Bandura emphasized the importance of cognitive processes in social learning. Individuals actively process and interpret information from their environment, which influences their learning and behavior.

The Impact of Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory has had a significant impact on various fields, including education, psychology, and criminology. Its emphasis on observation, modeling, and reinforcement has been applied in numerous contexts to explain and modify human behavior.

In educational settings, social learning theory has been used to develop effective teaching methods that incorporate modeling and observational learning. Educators recognize the importance of providing students with positive role models and opportunities for observational learning to enhance their understanding and skills.

In psychology, social learning theory has contributed to our understanding of how behaviors are acquired and changed. It has been applied in areas such as therapy, where observing positive behaviors can help individuals overcome challenges or develop new coping strategies.

Furthermore, social learning theory has also been influential in criminology. By understanding how individuals learn deviant behaviors through observation and reinforcement, researchers have developed interventions aimed at reducing criminal behavior by promoting prosocial models and providing alternative reinforcement.


Social learning theory, introduced by Albert Bandura in the 1960s, highlights the importance of observation, modeling, and cognitive processes in learning and behavior. This theory has significantly influenced various fields and continues to provide valuable insights into how individuals acquire new knowledge and skills.