Social Learning Theory: Possibility Of Application Within A Whole Personal Life

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Social learning theory usually divides into three stages: retention, reproduction and motivation. Retention refers to the ability of the individual converted the observed behaviour of the model into a representative image to keep in memory. Reproduction refers to the individual’s observation of the performance of the model and expressed in their own actions. Motivation means that an individual not only learns behaviour from a model through observation and imitation but also is willing to express the learned behaviour at an appropriate time.

When I was 3 years old, my grandfather made a joke on me and gave me a cigarette. However, my next move scared everyone. I smoothly took the tobacco and copied my father’s usual movements which sandwiching the cigarette between my two fingers. They did not expect that a three-year-old child who did not even learn to say a complete sentence but learned her father’s unhealthy habit unconsciously. In fact, social learning theory can be applied to this situation. Normal children grow up in a family-friendly environment and their chances of getting in touch with humans are just their families. Social learning theory points out that human behaviour is a combination of observable stimuli and internal psychological processes. Individuals learn by observing and imitating the behaviour of the people around them. When the environment surrounds the child is only family members, the family becomes the only model for the child to learn. The most important person among the family become a live model of children. At young children stage, the ability to distinguish right and wrong still have not developed so they learned all the movement of the live model by observation and imitate them. In my case, my father is the live model. I observed his smoking action and imitated it without thinking. The modelling process appears in my daily life that all of us did not realize.

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When children enter the stage of collective life, family members are no longer the focusing point of children’s lives, it shifts to campus life instead. Their environments are not restricted to their families and extended to different people.

Achieving social norms is the biggest goal of campus life. The school aims to cultivate students’ values about what is right and wrong. Teachers will facilitate the rules that we need to follow and the consequence if we not. Reinforcements and punishments are the elements that the school used to direct us to follow the rule. With these general ideas in mind, we restrict and set a bottom line to our behaviour.

In my primary education, a classmate was bullied but neither one helped. None of us wanted to become the next victim. The teacher realized and punished the bully hardly finally. Although we do not receive any rewards or punishments, we never bully when we observe the consequences of the bully. I discovered this behaviour was not allowed and established a social norm by the social learning process.

As children grow, their critical thinking ability will also develop. Teachers’ restrictions or school norms are not effective. Peer influence has become the most important form of social learning. It can cause someone desire to fit in and be accepted, even when the observed behaviour conflicts with their personal values. There is no reinforcement or punishment in this action, but they choose to do it.

When I was preparing for the public examination, I recognise my classmates were studying very hard. They asked for extra papers to prepare for the exam, I would start to speculate whether I should start working. I observed it is a gap between my classmate and I. Finally, we form a study group to monitor the learning processes. Peer influence usually appears when there is a comparison. Individuals begin to feel that I am different from others and want to shape myself same as everyone else. Under this situation, the learning process of others become retention. I choose to form a study group is a reproduction phase. The learning outcome becomes the motivation for my action. This is the most effective form of social learning. When we observe the behaviour of a peer, we begin to translate these behaviours into our own performance and use them in ourselves.

When I have experienced a series of social learning processes, I will learn about social norms. We learn to define normal behaviour and do the right thing. After we go out of society, we will be able to do it and become a good person.


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