Essay about Psychology: Behaviorism and Social Learning Theory

Submitted By trinity22uk
Words: 1214
Pages: 5


Consider how three psychological perspectives explain smoking.

The social learning theory is the learning of behaviour through observing other people’s actions (McLeod, 2011). It has often been looked at as a bridge between behaviourism and cogitative learning theories (Billingham et al., 2008). One of the most influential case studies was the famous Bobo Doll Experiment  by Bandura, in 1961. Bandura, investigated if social behaviours such as aggression can be acquired by observation and through imitation of another person. Through this he tried to prove that children would copy an adult role model's behaviour. He wanted to show, by using aggressive and non-aggressive actors, that a child would tend to imitate and learn from the behaviours of a trusted adult (Cherry, 2014). This concluded that children learn by imitating and observing model’s in their environment, and imitate their behaviour (McLeod, 2011).

The strengths of this study are that the results were realistic because Bandura used real children in his research, and used quantitative data and not personal opinion, so it was easily analysed (McLeod, 2011). However because the experiment took place in a lab setting, some critics suggest that results observed in this type of location may not be indicative of what takes place in the real world, which produces low ecological validity (McLeod, 2011).

The social learning theory is similar to the Oedipus complex as they both involve copying another person’s behaviour. However, “during the Oedipus complex the child can only identify with the same sex parent, whereas with the social learning theory the person (child/adult) can potentially identify with any other person” (McLeod, 2011).

When looking at smoking, we recognise that we learn by example through other people. Therefore we are strongly influenced by our peers such as family member’s and celebrities, therefore when we see them smoking, we begin to emulate their behaviours and start smoking. Therefore we can see smoking as a vicarious reinforcement.
The social learning theory takes into account the cognitive processes that are involved in learning however; it does not fully explain individual differences, so what is perceived to be acceptable behaviour for one person may not be for another (Billingham et al., 2008).


Biological Psychologist believe the biological approach is that our behaviour and experiences are caused by activity in the nervous system of the body. Therefore the things that individuals think and feel, say and do are caused, by electrochemical events that occur in the neurones that make up their nervous system, especially those in the brain (Sammons, 2014). Many biological psychologists also believe that our behaviour is also determined by our inherited genes. It is widely believed that schizophrenia, which has a “range of symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking and speech,” (Sammons, 2014:2) is a result of inheriting a faulty gene or genes. It also stresses the importance of nature in the nature-nurture debate.

Evidence that certain traits are inherited were found in Bock and Goode’s study on mice in 1996 (Notes, 2014). They kept young male mice away from others and reared them alone, without their parents. Later on, when these mice were exposed to other mice they would often attack the other mice, therefore even though these mice had been “brought up alone they could not have been taught this behaviour by their parents or other mice.” (Notes, 2014). In a separate experiment mice were also reared with their parents and when exposed to other mice they did not attack, therefore this supports the fact that aggression is natural and learnt through experiences and also suggests that aggression could be inherent through our genes (Notes, 2014).

However it is safe to say that this study will still be mostly confined to animal studies