Psychology - Social Learning Theory


The media always talk about the films we watch, music we listen to or video games we play. Unfortunately there have been several recent murders involving children shooting schoolmates in the USA and Finland. Each time, the media focus on the influence of violent TV or video games to provide an answer for their behaviour. 

Do you think violent TV and video games alone could cause these tragedies?

Social learning theory as an explanation of aggression

Observational learning

Children learn through watching other people. When we try to teach child to eat with a spoon, complete a jigsaw or use a pen, we often demonstrate the skill first. The child remembers and copies this action and performs it itself. This is called observational learning

Modelling is the act of copying an observed behaviour. If a parent frequently reads books, the child may model this behaviour by picking up books, opening them and turning pages.

Observational learning can take place without modelling; we don't copy everything we see, but we still learn it. It involves four steps:

  • Attention: paying attention to the person being observed.
  • Memory: being able to remember what we have seen until it is needed.
  • Reproduction: being able to act out what we see - this is modelling.
  • Motivation: the incentive to copy what has been seen.

Role models

The person we observe and learn from is called a role model. This can be anyone we watch, such as a sporting hero, celebrity, teacher or parent. David Beckham is a role model for most children who like football. They model him by wearing 'his' football shirt and copying his football tricks.


We are more likely to model a person who is popular, attractive, a similar age, or the same gender as us. We identify with role models who are like us or that we look up to. Identification is when we adopt the behaviours, attitudes and beliefs of a role model. We become like them and believe that we can do what they do.

Vicarious learning

We are more likely to imitate someone if we think that there will be a reward in it for us. Vicarious learning is when we…




Comprehensive and colourful notes which focus on Social Learning Theory - ideal for GCSE and A Level students alike!



I think that this will not help me revise at all!



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Super helpful - still using for the new 2019 spec! 

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