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Marking AQA a-level Psychology Essay: Evaluate and outline the social learning theory

I am an a-level student self studying psychology as a resit and dont have any teachers to mark and grade my essays. Any feedback would on areas for improvemnt would be helpful and a mark if possible. This is 16 maker essayi have written for the question "Evaluate and outline the social learning theory "

The social-learning theory was created by psychologist Bandura and is a type of behaviourist approach but slightly differs. It agreses with the behaviourist approach that we learn through conditioning, specifically classical conditioning which is learning through association of a neutral stimuli and an uncontrolled stimulus. For example, in Pavlov's study a dog learnt to associate the sound of a ringing bel with food which created a controlled response where the bell alone could make the dog salivate. The other type of conditioning is operant condition which was created by B.F Skinner and is learning through Assocation of consequences. However, Banduras social learning theory argues we also learn through role models and some cognitive mediational processes which can be involved between the stimulus and the response.

The social learning theory argues that we learn through modelling by observing the model's behaviour and replicating it. It argues that identification is also involved as the more we relate to the model the more likely we are to replicate their behaviour. The theory also states the model is usually someone with desirable characteristics such as fame or beauty. The social learning theory also states we learn through vicarious reinforcement which involves observing how someone else is rewarded for their behaviour and copying it so to receive the same rewards. This can be seen in real life situations, for example, students often copy each other's behaviour in order to receive rewards from their teacher or praises from each other. The social learning theory explains the 4 steps involved mediational processes, attention and retention are the first two and are the steps involved in understanding the behaviour. Reproduction and motivation are the two steps involved in actually imitating behaviour. Reproduction involves reproducing the behaviour and the more you believe you can do it correctly the more likely you are to. Motivation involves analysing the rewards of the behaviour, if the rewards are positive, you are likely to continue imitating the behaviour and if the rewards are negative its likely you will not continue imitating the behaviour.

Bandura provides evidence for his social learning theory by conducting a study which involved 36 boys and 36 girls aged around 52 months who were paired with partners who matched their level of aggression. There were three conditions, one where a group was showed adults playing with toys aggressively and hitting bobo dolls, another where a group was shown adults playing with toys normally and not in an aggressive manner and a final condition where participants weren't showed the adults playing with the toys at all. The results showed that the group who observed the adults aggressively mimicked their behaviour and also played with dolls aggressively. On the other hand, the group that saw the adults playing with the dolls in a non-violent way also played with dolls normally and where less aggressive than the group that did not see the dolls be played with at all. This suggests evidence of observational learning as the group that were not shown the dolls being played with at all behaved slightly more aggressive than the group that were shown the dolls being played with normally. This indicates that was their natural behaviour and the other two groups behaviour was due to observational learning. Bandura's study has good control variables due to laboratory nature of the study which means that outside variables are unlikely to affect the study and allow for a cause and effect to be easily determined and for the study to be replicated. However, because of the artificial nature of the study such as observing adults playing with child toys which is unlikely to happen in the real world it lacks ecological validity. Another strength of the study is that children aged 52 months likely lack the social awareness to know they are being studied and as a result their behaviour is more likely to be natural which makes the findings of the study more valid. Bandura's study has been criticised for ethical reasons such as teaching infants to behave aggressively, critics have also argued that because bobo dolls are supposed to be its hard to judge the behaviour of the participants as it could be argued to show evidence of obedience rather than observational learning.

The social learning theory has been criticised for being reductionist as it looks for a simple cause an effect rather than considering other possibilities like genetics. It has also been criticised for not illustrating the long-term effects of observational learning as Bandura's study only shows the immediate effects. On the other hand, it's been praised for looking at cognitive processes which behaviourist don't typically do, as well as using human studies instead of animal studies when behaviourist psychologist often only uses animal studies, which has been criticised for being unethical such as in Harlow's study where the monkeys became psychological damaged, and for being ungeneralizable as Lorenz study showed humans and animals where quantitively different. Overall, the social learning theory does have its strengths and appears to be a good approach to psychology, however its weaknesses show the importance of multiple approaches to psychology such as the biological approach which considers genetics even though the social learning theory does not, or the psychodynamic approach which considers the role of unconscious thoughts and feelings in behaviour.
(edited 1 month ago)

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