What is the theory of social learning

social learning theory

The learning process when learning on the model in the social-cognitive learning theory according to Bandura takes place in four processes. The Attention process states that people observe other people's behavior while doing the Retention process it is about storing what is observed in memory. The third step - the motor reproductive process - now deals with the transformation of what has been seen and noted into appropriate actions. The motivational processs deals with the issue that not everything a person learns is actually put into practice. A behavior is more likely to come into the observer's repertoire, the more it is expected that it will produce a positive result instead of a punitive effect (cf. Bandura, 1979, p. 31ff).

In contrast to the classical conditioning theories, the social-cognitive theory understands learning as an active, cognitively controlled processing process in which cognitive, emotional and motivational processes as well as social conditions play a role and interact. While the behaviorists only conclude learning processes when a new or changed behavior can be observed, Bandura points out that learning processes can have taken place even without an observable execution of behavior. In this model, the human being is a performance-oriented being who has the ability to control himself, in which behavior, personality and environment are mutually dependent.

According to Rotter, the aim of social learning theory is to explain the behavior of people in complex social situations. The aim is to predict the occurrence of already learned behaviors in different social situations (see www.psychology48.com/deu/d/soziale-lerntheorie/soziale-lerntheorie.htm; 11-11-19).

Social learning theory can deal with two aspects of socialization. On the one hand with the process itself, which can be very similar for many people from different cultures, on the other hand with the content of social learning. There are big differences between cultures in terms of content. Behavior that is accepted in one culture can provoke outrage in another. Even in a common culture, a different perspective can arise. Behavior can be considered recognized by an individual in the same society, while the reverse is not the case. For example, a superior may offer his employee a drink in his office, but the reverse is not desirable (cf. Lefrancois, 1972, p. 176).

Cognitive learning theory deals with the internal representation of the environment. It can be understood as receiving and processing information. This is a process in which people are actively involved. The result of this type of learning are structures (cf. Edelmann, 1993, p. 9).

According to Bandura, people can learn their behavior or their attitudes by simply observing a model. In addition to the person themselves, the models also include books, television and the like (cf. Kühn, 2007, p. 8)


Bandura, A. (1979). Social-cognitive learning theory. Stuttgart: Publishing Association Ernst Klett.

Edelmann, W. (1993). Learning psychology. Weinheim: Psychology Publishing Union.

Kühn, A. (2007). Albert Bandura and his social learning theory. The departure from orthodox behavior. Munich: Grin Verlag.

Lefrancois, G.R. (1972). Psychology of learning. Report from Congor the Andronean. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Psychology48.com. (2011). The Psychology Lexicon. Social learning theory. http://www.psychology48.com/deu/d/soziale-lerntheorie/soziale-lerntheorie.htm (11-11-19).

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