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What is the Social Learning Theory?

The theory explains that viewers imitate what they see on television through the procedure referred to as “observational learning”.

The uppermost level of observational learning is achieved through first organizing and rehearsing the behavior seen on TV and rehearsing the behavior symbolically then overtly enacting.

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The “rewards” that television characters receive for their antisocial, and illicit behavior (both the possession, such as the money from a robbery, and the glamorization, and recognition for there crime on television) encourage limitation.

“Bobo the doll Experiment”

A example of the social learning theory is Bandura’s classic experiment on the imitation of violence, called the “Bobo the doll experiment”

This experiment validated Banduras initial theory of social learning

Experiment Limitations

The experiment consisted of children situated in a room to view a movie of a model hitting a “Bobo” doll, and thus being punished, a model hitting the doll and being rewarded, and a model hitting the doll without consequence. The experiment proved that if children saw the model rewarded for their behavior, or if the children saw the video that did not have any consequence to the action, the children became more aggressive and enacted the behavior upon the doll similarly. Though this proved Banduras theory correct, many limitations to the research method are appear. One cannot assume that the conditions under which the experiment was conducted reflect real world situations, and thus raise questions about Generalizability arise. The treatments of the experiment may be unrealistic in the way they often involve much more intense sequences of content then what one would see in the real world.

Generalizability Definition

Back to Generalizability

In many ways, generalizability amounts to nothing more than making predictions based on a recurring experience. If something occurs frequently, we expect that it will continue to do so in the future. Researchers use the same type of reasoning when generalizing about the findings of their studies. Once researchers have collected sufficient data to support a hypothesis, a premise regarding the behavior of that data can be formulated, making it generalizable to similar circumstances. Because of its foundation in probability, however, such a generalization cannot be regarded as conclusive or exhaustive.

While generalizability can occur in informal, nonacademic settings, it is usually applied only to certain research methods in academic studies. Quantitative methods allow some generalizability. Experimental research, for example, often produces generalizable results. However, such experimentation must be rigorous in order for generalizable results to be found.

Observational or social learning is based primarily on the work of Albert Bandura. He and his colleagues were able to demonstrate through a variety of experiments that the application of consequences was not necessary for learning to take place. Rather learning could occur through the simple processes of observing someone elses activity. This work provided the foundation for Banduras later work in social cognition.

Bandura formulated his findings in a four-step pattern which combines a cognitive view and an operant view of learning.

1. Attention -- the individual notices something in the environment

. Retention -- the individual remembers what was noticed

. Reproduction -- the individual produces an action that is a copy of what was noticed

4. Motivation -- the environment delivers a consequence that changes the probability the behavior will be emitted again (reinforcement and punishment)

Banduras work draws from both behavioral and cognitive views of learning. He believes that mind, behavior and the environment all play an important role in the learning process.

In a set of well known experiments, called the Bobo doll studies, Bandura showed that children (ages to 6) would change their behavior by simply watching others.

Three groups of children watched a film in which a child in a playroom behaved aggressively (e.g., hit, kick, yell) towards a bobo doll. The film had three different endings. One group of children saw the child praised for his behavior; a second group saw the child told to go sit down in a corner and was not allowed to play with the toys; a third group (the control) group saw a film with the child simply walking out of the room. Children were then allowed into the playroom and actions of aggression were noted.

What do we learn from these data in terms of the differences and similarities between boys and girls? Among different experimental conditions? Was the model rewarded really an example of the use of positive reinforcement?

Bandura and his colleagues also demonstrated that viewing aggression by cartoon characters produces more aggressive behavior than viewing live or filmed aggressive behavior by adults. Additionally, they demonstrated that having children view prosocial behavior can reduce displays of aggressive behavior

In more recent years, Bandura has turned his attention to self-efficacy and self-regulation. He now classifies his theoretical orientation as social cognition

Social cognition has its roots in social psychology which attempts to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others (Allport, 185, p. ). It studies the individual within a social or cultural context and focuses on how people perceive and interpret information they generate themselves (intrapersonal) and from others (interpersonal) (Sternberg, 14

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