The importance of Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory was founded by Albert Bandura (1977), which is the idea that people learn from each other.


This is done through ‘imitation, observation and modelling.’ The importance of social learning theory is analysed by Bandura, looking at how children learn from watching those around them.


Imitation, observation and modelling

Bandura found that children observe the actions and behaviour of many people around them. These people being observed are called ‘models.’

Children are constantly surrounded by these ‘models,’ for example their family members, and look up to them. As a consequence, children copy their behaviour and imitate them.

If the behaviour the chid imitates is deemed correct, they will be rewarded by this, and replicate it in future.



The term identification represents the child copying the behaviour of the ‘model,’ like their behaviour, beliefs, opinions and points of view. Bandura says their behaviour is internalised by the people they copy and look up to. Identification involves a number of different behaviours being mimicked, which differs from imitation, which is one behaviour being copied.


Social Learning Theory and cognitive approach

Social Learning Theory bridges the gap between ‘traditional learning theory’ and cognitive learning. It involves looking at how cognitive learning, which is learning by doing , processing and experiencing, influences how we learn. Bandura believes that we are constantly learning and actively processing information, whilst thinking about the consequences.

For example, in order for observational learning to work, individuals must be using their cognitive ability to process information. Observational learning therefore, can only work when engaging cognitive factors, which produce an outcome. This means that observational learning isn’t copied from the ‘model’ instinctively, the individual produces thoughts based on what they are watching, and generates an outcome as a result. This outcome is either copying this behaviour or choosing not to.


Bandura’s Social Learning Theory examines how behaviour is imitated by others, especially children. The importance of Social Learning Theory can unveil new methods of teaching. This can be looking at how children copy behaviour, identification, and implementing this learning-by-doing strategy. Cognition is an important factor in Social Learning Theory, which looks at how the brain responds to activity, whilst making a judgement. The individual can choose whether to copy the actions of the ‘model,’ or ignore it.