When Was Social Learning Theory Developed Criminology?


Diego Sanchez

When Was Social Learning Theory Developed in Criminology?

Social learning theory is a prominent perspective in criminology that focuses on how individuals learn criminal behavior through interactions with others and the environment. This theory was developed by renowned psychologist Albert Bandura in the mid-20th century.

The Development of Social Learning Theory

During the 1950s and 60s, traditional criminological theories primarily focused on individual factors such as biological predispositions and psychological traits to explain criminal behavior. However, Bandura believed that these perspectives failed to consider the impact of social influences on human behavior.

Bandura’s groundbreaking work in social learning theory began with his famous Bobo doll experiments conducted in 1961. In these experiments, Bandura observed how children imitated aggressive actions they witnessed adults perform towards an inflatable doll.

The Key Principles of Social Learning Theory

1. Observational Learning

  • Social learning theory emphasizes that individuals learn through observing others’ behaviors, attitudes, and consequences.
  • This process involves attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.

2. Reinforcement

  • Bandura argued that reinforcement plays a crucial role in shaping behavior.
  • Rewards or punishments following certain actions can increase or decrease the likelihood of individuals engaging in similar behaviors.

3. Imitation

  • According to social learning theory, individuals are more likely to imitate behaviors they perceive as favorable or rewarding.
  • This imitation can occur directly (observing someone committing a crime) or indirectly (through media or fictional characters).

4. Differential Association

  • Bandura emphasized that the people we interact with and the groups we belong to greatly influence our behavior.
  • Criminogenic associations, where individuals are exposed to criminal models and attitudes, increase the likelihood of engaging in criminal activities.

The Impact of Social Learning Theory in Criminology

Social learning theory revolutionized criminology by shifting the focus from individual characteristics to the influence of social factors on criminal behavior. It highlighted the importance of environmental influences, role models, and socialization processes in shaping an individual’s propensity for crime.

The theory has been widely applied to explain various types of criminal behavior, such as juvenile delinquency, gang involvement, and white-collar crime. It has also influenced prevention and intervention programs by emphasizing the need to address social influences and provide positive alternatives for individuals at risk.

In conclusion

Social learning theory, developed by Albert Bandura in the mid-20th century, revolutionized criminology by emphasizing the role of social influences in shaping criminal behavior. Through observational learning, reinforcement, imitation, and differential association, individuals acquire both prosocial and antisocial behaviors. This theory not only provides valuable insights into understanding criminal behavior but also guides interventions aimed at reducing crime rates.