Who Made the Social Learning Theory?


Jane Flores

The Social Learning Theory, also known as the Social Cognitive Theory, was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s. This theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others.

Understanding the Social Learning Theory

The Social Learning Theory suggests that people learn not only through direct experience but also by observing others. Bandura argued that individuals can acquire new behaviors and skills by observing and imitating others. This process is known as observational learning or modeling.

Bandura believed that observational learning occurs in four interconnected stages: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. In order to learn from observation, individuals must first pay attention to the model’s behavior.

They then need to retain the information in memory so they can reproduce it later. The individual’s ability and motivation to reproduce the observed behavior depend on various factors such as self-efficacy beliefs and perceived rewards or punishments.

Key Concepts of the Social Learning Theory

1. Observational Learning: Observational learning is a central concept in Bandura’s theory.

It suggests that individuals can learn new behaviors by watching others perform them. This type of learning is often influenced by factors such as attention, memory, motor skills, and motivation.

2. Modeling: Modeling refers to imitating or emulating the behaviors of others. According to Bandura, individuals are more likely to model behaviors if they perceive the model as similar to themselves and if they observe positive consequences resulting from those behaviors.

3. Vicarious Reinforcement: Vicarious reinforcement occurs when individuals observe someone else being rewarded or punished for a behavior. Through vicarious reinforcement, people learn which behaviors are likely to lead to positive outcomes and which ones are best avoided.

The Bobo Doll Experiment

Bandura’s most famous study supporting the Social Learning Theory is the Bobo Doll Experiment. In this experiment, children observed an adult model engaging in aggressive behavior towards a Bobo doll.

The children were then allowed to play with the doll themselves. Bandura found that children who had witnessed aggressive behavior were more likely to imitate that behavior compared to children who had not been exposed to aggression.

Applications of the Social Learning Theory

The Social Learning Theory has been widely applied in various fields, including education, psychology, and criminology. It has been used to explain how individuals acquire new skills and behaviors, as well as how they develop attitudes and beliefs.

In education, the theory suggests that students can learn from observing their teachers and peers. Teachers can use modeling techniques to demonstrate desired behaviors and skills, such as problem-solving or conflict resolution.

In psychology, the theory has been used to understand how individuals develop fears and phobias. For example, if a child observes another person displaying fear towards a specific object or situation, they may learn to associate that fear with the object or situation themselves.

In criminology, the theory has been applied to explain how individuals learn criminal behavior through observation and imitation of others. It suggests that exposure to criminal models can increase the likelihood of engaging in criminal activities.


The Social Learning Theory proposed by Albert Bandura revolutionized our understanding of human learning and behavior. By highlighting the role of observation and modeling, this theory emphasizes that individuals are not solely shaped by their own experiences but also by what they observe in others. Understanding this theory can help us better comprehend how we acquire new skills, develop attitudes, and form behaviors.