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Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory represents a socially-focused type of behaviorism. He accepted behavior as a result of learning in social situations when others’ example form and modify individual’s behavior. He also emphasized the role of cognitive processes in forming reinforcement schedules – according to Bandura, it is person who initiates the reaction on stimuli, so responses are not automatic (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

If we try to formulate Bandura’s theory in several theses, there could be mentioned:

  • Focus on human subjects in their interaction (social behavior).

  • Behaviors are influenced by society.

  • The response on stimuli is the result of conscious decision.

  • Learning occurs rather through watching other’s behavior and its consequences.

  • Due to involvement of cognitive processes, reinforcement schedules can be replaced by models (what the person thinks is reinforcement schedule) so there’s no difference between pattern and model.

  • Modeling and reinforcement modify behaviors.

  • Self-efficacy which is one’s sense of self-esteem and competence has a dramatic impact on their results (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

Practical Applications

The idea of modeling expands learning processes practically to eternity. Whenever the behavioral changes are needed to form appropriate behaviors and exclude unwanted ones, modeling can be applied.

The most important directions are working with aggression, clinical use for certain mental disorders and phobias, sociopolitical influence (forming understanding of what’s appropriate behaviors in large populations), and enhancing personal results and self-esteem.

As an example of applications to problems of aggression and violence, there’s famous research conducted by different specialists which establishes relationship between aggressive behaviors and aggression seen on TV and in computer games – cruel scenes and risky behaviors on the screen is perceived as a model of behavior and could lead to aggression in real life (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

The example of clinical application of social learning is the understanding of the nature of OCD/OCRD when it was found that people with obsessive-compulsive or related disorder are basically taught to feel anxious through the contacts with other people. Thus, parents or caregivers may (intentionally or not) give a child understanding that some situations are so dangerous that they should be avoided by any means. Classic example is the message “germs make you sick, they are everywhere” which leads to obsessive hand washing and it becomes a way of coping with any situations that provoke anxiety (Jacofsky, Santos, Khemlani-Patel & Neziroglu, n.d.).

Modeling as a method of influence on the whole population was observed by me myself when the USSR has collapsed and post-soviet society faced wide difference of problems which were ignored or silenced because they didn’t did not fit into the ideology of communism. For instance, sex and sexual behaviors were behind soviet life-style which was perfectly expressed during US – Soviet Space Bridge in 1986 when one of the participants said “there’s no sex in USSR” (Keyssar, 1994,, n.d). Suddenly it turned out that overwhelming number of people don’t have basic sexual education, and AIDS and HIV perceived as a “just Western disease” though there already were epidemics in several areas (Salkova, 2017). I remember first social advertisements with the slogan “people of sense make reasonable decisions”, open discussions in talk-shows on TV (feministic “Me, Myself” and educating “All about THAT”) and free condom distributions on the streets. It is rather difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign because the results have been disturbed by later Putin’s rollback to the past but at least my generation knew what’s condom (my parents didn’t).


Social learning theory is widely used by educators especially if considering of diversity is needed. Thus, international developer of learning solutions PulseLearning uses Bandura’s principles of observation learning, retention and context, motivation and reward, and state of the mind. It is stressed that learning should not be an isolated experience, and in fact it cannot be like that (Spencer, 2015). Going further, these principles are mentioned throughout different popular-scientific sources related to education and psychology.

The concept of self-efficacy as the basic part of individual and collective performance is also widely used in different studies and could be applied to different areas. Usually it is compared with intelligence, ability to establish social contact, productivity in a certain field, self-esteem and emotional wellness (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

Self-efficacy is considered in gender and sex studies as possible factor of forming certain behavioral patterns and some personal characteristics. Thus, the female gender is noticed to be related to low self-efficacy, while females show higher scores in intelligence testing so we could assume that gender dictates low self-efficacy which, in its turn, influences the levels of performance and self-presenting (Kumar & Lal, 2006). Also, the connection between self-efficacy, sex and sexual negotiation skills – again, higher levels of negotiation skills in men (Adebayo & Olonisakin, 2014).


Adebayo, S. O., Olonisakin, T. T. (2014). Influence of Sex and Gender-Role on Self-Efficacy in Sexual Negotiation. Online Journal of Social Sciences Research 3 (7), 181-188. Retrieved from (n.d.). No Sex in the USSR. [Audio file]. Retreived from

Jacofsky, M. D., Santos, M. T., Khemlani-Patel, S., Neziroglu, F. (n.d.) Sociocultural Explanations Of Obsessive-Compulsive And Related Disorders (OCRDs). Retrieved from

Keyssar, H (1994, June). Space Bridges: The U.S.-Soviet Space Bridge Resource Center. PS: Political Science & Politics. Retrieved from

Kumar, R., Lal, R. (2006). The Role of Self-Efficacy and Gender Difference

Among the Adolescents. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 32 (3), 249-254.

Salkova, A. (2016 November, 3d). Not a ‘Western disease’ after all: How HIV appeared in the USSR. Russia Beyond. Retrieved from

Schultz, D. P., Schultz, S. E. (2016). A History of Modern Psychology. Boston, MA. Cengage Learning.

Spencer, R. (2015). How to Apply Social Learning Theory for Effective eLearning. PulseLearning. Retrieved from

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