Social Learning Theory Free Essay Samples & Outline

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Sample Essay On Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory states that learning is a cognitive process which often takes place in a social context and can often occur purely through direct instruction and observation even when there is absence of motor reproduction or even direct reinforcement. Therefore, the social learning theory pegs itself on the observation of behavior and states that learning occurs through the direct observation of rewards as well as punishment. This process is known as vicarious reinforcement.

The book talks about how the theory has been able to expand on the traditional behavioral theories, where they argued that behavior is often governed solely by reinforcements. The social learning theory often integrates behavioral and cognitive theories of learning in a bid to provide a comprehensive model that can account for wide range of learning experiences that often occur in the real world. The book clearly explains the key tenets of the theory.

They include the fact that learning is not purely behavioral, but rather it can be described as cognitive process which in many cases takes place in a social context. The second tenet is that learning can often occur by the observation of behavior and also by observing the consequences of behavior. This is what was previously described as vicarious reinforcement. The third tenet is that learning often involves observation, and the extraction of information from these different and diverse observations, this leads to a conclusion about making decisions about the performance of the behavior. Therefore, learning can often occur with an observable change in behavior.

Social learning theory is pegged on reinforcement, however, it is important to understand that learning is not entirely responsible for learning. The last tenet is the fact that the learner is the social learning theory is not often a passive recipient of information. However, through the process of reciprocal determinism, cognition, behavior and environment often influence each other.

The question posed by the book is whether the social learning can be used in criminology. The answer is yes, the social learning theory can be used to explain the emergence as well as the maintenance of deviant behavior. This is especially true when it comes to aggression. The book creates a comprehensive theory of criminal behavior that integrates the principles of social learning theory and operant conditioning in order to create the theory.

The book emphasizes the fact that criminal behavior is learned in both social as well as nonsocial situations through different and diverse combinations of direct reinforcement, explicit instruction, vicarious reinforcement and observation. However, the two authors that are also criminologists Ronald Akers and Robert Burgess make it clear that the probability of being exposed to certain behaviors and the nature of the reinforcement are often dependent entirely on group norms.

The two authors also take the issue of social control. Social control theory often proposes the exploitation the process of socialization as well as social learning that builds self-control and it often reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior that is often recognized as being antisocial. There are four types of control, and they include direct, internal, control through needs satisfaction, and indirect. Direct means that the punishment is applied when it comes to wrong behavior, and compliance is often rewarded by family, authority figures as well as parents.

Internal often means that the youth refuses to be delinquent because of his or her conscience or superego. Indirect on the other means the identification of those that influence the behavior, and argue that their delinquent act might cause pain as well as disappointment to the parents or others that have close relationships. Lastly, there is the control through the needs of satisfaction. In this case, the individual’s needs are often met, where there is no point in criminal activity.

The book in Chapter 7 argues about reintegrative shaming and the theory emphasizes the importance of shame when it comes to criminal punishment. This theory often holds that punishment should often focus on the offender’s behavior as compared to the spotlight being on the offender. The authors argue that evaluation is very reliable and useful. They argue that it is applicable in today’ society and rather than creating more crime, the reintegrative shaming often deters future acts of crime. However, the authors point out that the theory is not always effective; they are those criminals that are not remorseful.

The social disorganization theory directly links crime rates to the neighborhood ecological characteristics. The theory argues that a person’s residential location can be described as a substantial factor that shapes the likelihood that the person will be intricately involved in illegal activities.

The theory therefore argues that people that come from disadvantageous neighborhoods can engage in illegal activities because they participate in a certain subculture which often approves delinquency. Therefore, these youths often acquire criminality in the social as well as cultural setting. The book describes in detail the different theories and how they affect criminology. The authors are experts in this field and consequently, they can be argued to have moved a notch higher when it comes to the explanation of these theories.


Ronald L. AKers Christine S. Sellers Introduction, Evaluation, And Appliateion. Sixth Edition