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What is Social Learning Theory?

Albert Bandura the architect of the social learning theory is most probably recognized for being the proponent of the most effective and realistic development theory. Bandura was against the notion of using direct reinforcement for all learning types. Being a sociologist he concentrated much on trying to learn and study the behavior change of humans from which he came up with his theory on acquiring and learning of behaviors.

His theory brought a new idea in learning that people can learn through observation and emulation of other people's behavior that is observable. This learning type can be used to explain the various behaviors.

His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. Known as observational learning (or modeling), this type of learning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviors.

Basic Social Learning Concepts

1. Learning through Observation

Since time immemorial men have always been assertive. This assertive nature of men has been passed of from one generation to the other through observation. It is of no coincidence that you will find a son telling the other not to do something because "Dad doesn't do it that way". This shows how the effect of observation tends to propel the nature of men being aggressive.

Whenever there is conflict or tension in the house, it is usually the man that is courageous to come out and deal with the problem out rightly. This explains why the children will always run to their dad for help whenever they feel they are insecure. The same environment models up the male child to do things the way the dad did hence men perpetuate their aggressiveness.

Bandura, basic of observational learning Models.

1. This involves an actual model. This is where an individual demonstrates or acts out a behavior. For example when a dad tells his grown up son of what entails being a man he may do this by stressing on his actions and justifying the actions to be right. As such the natural aggressive nature of men is brought out.

   1. A live model, which involves an actual individual demonstrating or acting out a behavior.

   2. The second model just involves the use of words in describing an action. This could for example in this case be in form of a dad talking to his son over his duties as a man."My son, men don't just sit down when trouble comes but rather they wake up and look for the solution of the problem". Such description by a father figure to a son will definitely perpetuate the nature of aggressiveness of men.

   3. The symbolic model that usually happens to be either real or fictional can also facilitate the aggressiveness of men. The photos of a man hunting for example gives a son the notion that men are aggressive that they can hunt even lions just like David of the Bible. This aggressive nature of men is also perpetuated since it is rare to find photos of women who are such aggressive to the level of fighting a lion.

2. Mental states are important to learning.

Bandura recognizes the importance of the mental state to learning. The interpretation of an action by an individual will result to a conclusion that will determine the action of the person.

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In acknowledging that external environment reinforcement is a factor that will forever influence learning and behavior, he goes ahead in his theory in explaining that intrinsic reinforcement-which is a form of internal reward cannot be downplayed.

Bandura noted that external, environmental reinforcement was not the only factor to influence learning and behavior. He described intrinsic reinforcement as a form of internal reward, such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. This emphasis on internal thoughts and cognitions helps connect learning theories to cognitive developmental theories. While many textbooks place social learning theory with behavioral theories, Bandura himself describes his approach as a 'social cognitive theory.'

3. Learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior.

Bandura in his theory argues that learning does not necessarily lead to the change in behavior. I do conquer with him on the basis that some characters are in born and hence not transferred from one person to the other through observation or taking in instructions. While a son will try to emulate the dad in his actions, failure to emulate his dad will not deny him the characteristics of a man.

Some of the characters that we see in children are inborn. It comes with the genetic balance between the mother and the dad of the child. However the socialization of a child can result to some modification of this inborn character. This explains why men are aggressive yet at the same time father would always urge their sons to always be aggressive. This is just to boost up the already existing character in him.

Behaviorists believed that learning led to a permanent change in behavior while observational learning demonstrates that people can learn new information without demonstrating new behaviors.

The Modeling Process

Going by the Bandura theory, we all accept that not all that is observed by an individual is effectively learned. Bandura outlines the factors that would determine the success of the learning. He argues that the following a number of issues must be given importance before in the process of observing and learning. They include Attention, Retention, reproduction and motivation. This four principles determine the level with which we are able to learn from various scenarios (Kahn, 2009).

Attention is the key for one to learn. It is practically impossible for one to learn if each of their senses is not coordinating in looking at the subject matter in which the individual is involved in. For the case of the aggressiveness of the males, it is a fact that this aggressiveness is what gives them the urge to want to know so many things at the same time. This aggressiveness usually comes at the adolescent age where the males would want recognition and hence would be hyper sensitive even in their reactions to various issues.

Retention refers to the capability to store the information which one has observed.  Retention has to do with ions, brain capacity to absorb the things that they may have seen or heard. Retention is very important as without it learning cannot take place. Humans tend to retain that which is of great importance to them than the general ideas and observations.

The ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2008).

Reproduction is a very important step that entails the doing of the learnt idea. It is through reproduction that we can know ones interpretation of the various ideas that they have learnt just like in class where the student are subjected to exams to ascertain their retention and allowed to go home and in various fields to practice that which they have learnt.

Motivation refers to the push factors that compel one to do the things that they may have learnt. As such motivation will determine if one will put into practice that which they have learnt or not. One may have acquired skills to do certain things but lack of the push factors becomes a hindrance to the action being put into practice. The motivation of getting the cash to take care of their families for example pushes men to working extra hard for the cash. They just have to be aggressive for the cash (Sigelman & Rider, 2008).

The aggressiveness of men is catered for in the Bandura's theory. This comes in various ways. The aspect of observation and copying from the observation has been a contributor to this aggressiveness. Sons are able to copy from their fathers what there fathers do and since their dads are aggressive they are able to follow suit (Shaffer, 2008).

The provision that one can learn and yet not change is a positive contributor to the aggressiveness of men. This caters for the behavior that comes out of the genetic make up and not the learned behavior. For instance if someone's dad was aggressive it is very likely that the genes passed to the son would have such characteristics hence the son would also be aggressive. The need for the males to provide for the family makes them to become aggressive in order to find the means within which the family will live. This is different with the women who do not shoulder much responsibility as such.

The provision of learning through verbal instructions also comes in handy in support of the learning to be aggressive by the males. It is of no coincidence that the males are sometimes made to sit down, especially when they are still young and be taught what has got to do with their behavior and role as men. The males in many instances are advised to always stand firm for their families hence making them aggressive for any venture that is viable and comes their way.

The observation by the men to the environment has contributed to their being aggressive. This is due to the fact that the males find that the environment surrounding them needs a lot of direction on how issues should be carried out. This gives the men a sense of assertiveness that brings the aggressiveness in them. The men are being looked at to provide guidance to their families and this cultures them into becoming aggressive (Yount, 2010).

I find Bandura's theory to be more of practical on the ground given that behavior is both learnt and also can come with one's genetic make up. This is contrary to some other sociologist's arguments that behavior is only learnt. This explains why some correspondence in character such as the walking style of a father or mother to the child could seem to be alike.

The aggressiveness of men is also attributed to the cultural transfers that are passed on from one generation to the other. This has made it to become some form of norm that they identify with. In the spirit of emulating their grand fathers the aggressiveness in men is kept on and on.

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