Who Came Up With the Social Learning Theory Criminology?


Diego Sanchez

The Social Learning Theory in criminology is a widely recognized and influential theory that seeks to explain how individuals learn deviant behavior through social interactions. Developed by sociologist Albert Bandura, this theory has had a profound impact on the field of criminology and has revolutionized our understanding of criminal behavior.

Albert Bandura: The Mind Behind the Theory

Albert Bandura, born on December 4, 1925, in Mundare, Alberta, Canada, is a renowned psychologist and one of the most influential figures in social cognitive theory. He is best known for his groundbreaking work on observational learning and the development of the Social Learning Theory.

Observational Learning:

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory emphasizes the role of observation and imitation in learning. According to this theory, individuals acquire new behaviors by observing others and imitating their actions. Bandura believed that people learn not only through direct experience but also by observing others’ behaviors and their consequences.

The Bobo Doll Experiment:

To support his theory, Bandura conducted a series of experiments known as the Bobo Doll Experiment in the early 1960s. In these experiments, children were exposed to aggressive behavior modeled by an adult towards an inflatable doll named Bobo. The results showed that children who witnessed aggressive behavior were more likely to imitate it than those who did not.

The Social Learning Theory Applied to Criminology

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory has significant implications for criminology. It suggests that criminal behavior can be learned through observation and imitation of others engaged in deviant activities. This theory posits that individuals are more likely to engage in criminal acts if they observe others being rewarded or otherwise benefiting from such behaviors.

Social Reinforcement:

Bandura argued that individuals are more likely to engage in criminal behavior if they perceive it as rewarding or if they observe others being rewarded for similar actions. This concept of social reinforcement plays a crucial role in the development of criminal behavior.

Role Models and Criminal Behavior:

Bandura also highlighted the influence of role models on the development of criminal behavior. According to his theory, individuals are more likely to engage in criminal acts if they have observed others, particularly influential role models, engaging in similar behaviors without facing significant consequences.

Criticism and Controversies

Nature vs. Nurture Debate:

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory has been subject to criticism and controversies. Some argue that this theory neglects the importance of biological and genetic factors in shaping criminal behavior, focusing primarily on environmental influences.

  • However, Bandura himself acknowledged the interaction between nature and nurture in his later works, suggesting that both factors contribute to individual differences in behavior.
  • It is important to note that the Social Learning Theory does not discount biological factors but rather emphasizes the significance of social interactions and observational learning.

The Influence of Media:

Critics also argue that Bandura’s theory fails to adequately address the influence of media on learning deviant behaviors. In today’s digital era, where exposure to violent media content is prevalent, some believe that media plays a significant role in shaping individuals’ behavior patterns.

In conclusion,

The Social Learning Theory developed by Albert Bandura has made substantial contributions to our understanding of criminal behavior. By emphasizing the role of observation and imitation, this theory highlights how individuals learn deviant behaviors through social interactions. While not without its criticisms, Bandura’s theory has significantly influenced the field of criminology and continues to be a valuable framework for understanding the complexities of criminal behavior.