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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
Evolutionary theories had a lasting impact in the U.S during the 1890-1918 period. Science in particular has massive implications during this period, especially on social affairs. The pressing question that most individuals grappled with is whether all people belong to a similar species. Consequently, this led to the race question. There was a debate between polygenesis and monogenesis whereby pebbles were used in determining skull volume. It was argued that more intelligent individuals possessed more pebbles than the others. For purposes of adapting to different environments, species have to evolve regularly
The transformation of traits is critical to survival. Darwin's work, therefore, appealed to a broad audience since the empirical evidence that he supplied was detailed, and also supported his claims regarding the evolution of species. Although the theory aroused enormous controversy, it soon gained great appeal.
From his original work, Darwin had contended that contemporary species embodied their best form in line with the evolution. However, he ultimately yielded to popular belief and adopted the hierarchy thought. Different scholars maintained that the evolution of individuals is determined by the environment; and that the New World climate made people lazy. They become ignorant, stupid and unacquainted with the destitute and art industry
The role of the social classes can also not be underscored with regards to this. Social classes raise various labor questions, including environmental functionalism, economic functionalism and cultural functionalism. Economic functionalism, for instance, endorsed a laissez-faire economy which had no government regulation. This further raised the question of what is important between survival of people and survival of businesses. No strong business could survive without food.
Quality and conditions of life were weighed against prosperity and production. The progressive era, as it came to be known, represented a period of fermenting moral fervor, idealism, and constructive political, economic and social change. Reform was given spurring attention, and different approaches were taken to address perceived problems
The battle for civilization in 1992 was also critical. It was stated that in any race, people root for different causes. Philosophers at the time believed that o one should be left too far behind as this would only result in lost ambition and hope. It was important that the slum be wiped out as failure to do so would only result in the slum wiping us all out. This brought into the light the issue of reform Darwinism. "survival of the fittest" was popularized by social Darwinism. However, to offset calamity, reform Darwinism was preferred. Reform Darwinism involves intervening in favor of the unfit to ensure the entire community survives.
The home should not be emptied of virtue and morality, and this is what capitalism argued against. Philanthropic progressives such as Jane Adams volunteered to enlighten the poor by providing information on health care and employment. They also sought to change child labor laws, workers compensation, housing laws, as well as general politics
The house of Jane Adams was instrumental in assisting the black society. People were in a tragic situation at the time. They had to choose between communion with God and social righteousness. In any life, spiritual regeneration is crucial, and it is important that it happens. The church, therefore, had a massive role to play as far as evolution is concerned. Darwinian theories, popular thought and Eugenics were all instrumental during the 1890-1918 period of U.S history.
spiritual regeneration is crucial, and it is important that it happens. The church, therefore, had a massive role to play as far as evolution is concerned. Darwinian theories, popular thought and Eugenics were all instrumental during the 1890-1918 period of U.S history.
Implication of Science in Turn of the Century Social Affairs." Science and Social thought, 2014.
The Progressive Era." Darwinism, 2014.
Socialization in life is one of the most common and almost indispensable skill that one has to acquire in order for him to survive in the social context. People that are incapable of socializing are always deemed pariahs (Healey, 2003). In most of the cases, socialization has to follow a certain predetermined way of life in order for the member to succeed. In the event that one does not follow the set approaches towards socialization, there is an eminent risk of losing out the social status (Sharrock, Hughes & Martin, 2003). Therefore, socialization is more of the ability of the member to conform to the norms set by the dominant members in the security. The group dynamics are also in play whenever one has to socialize. There most influential members of the team are the main influencers of the direction that one assumes in the process of socialization.
The above experiences have feature in my life. For the most part of my formative years, the development of cliques was dependent on how well none could fit in with the norms. For instance, there was an implied rule that one had to look a certain way and talk with a certain accent to belong (Healey, 2003). The belonging of one person to the group was dependent on the ability of the member to adhere to the norms.
Selection of the new members also followed the same rules. The leader in the groups had an explicit power over the others. They displayed the amiable leadership qualities that made them the automatic leaders of the group (Macionis, 2003). Charisma and the ability to develop new rules also gave a leader credibility. These powers were the main determinants of the influence (Healey, 2003). Changes in power also played out. The above dynamics were applicable in all aspects of socialization.
Healey, J. (2003). Race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.
Macionis, J. (2003). Sociology. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
Sharrock, W., Hughes, J., & Martin, P. (2003). Understanding modern sociology. London: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
This paper examines the applicability of behaviorism and social theories of learning in industrial psychology. This is an emerging field of profession that is quickly gaining prominence due to the critical role that it plays in streamlining the activities of business organizations. Industrial psychologists use psychological principles to impact the workplace, and thus their mastery of psychological concepts is a preliminary requirement if they are to successfully interpret real-world scenarios under a psychological lens before applying the appropriate principles to remedy a situation. This paper discusses five major topics related to behaviorism and social learning theories and contextualizes them in two key subtopics, i.e., mentorship and problem-solving to demonstrate how these can be used in real-life situations.
Keywords: industrial psychology, social learning theories, operant and classical conditioning, behaviorism.
Behaviorism and Social Learning Theory
The basis of social learning theory is that the process of learning is cognitive and largely takes place in a social context. According to Bandura’s social learning theory, learning is a process that takes place through direct instruction of observation even without reinforcement or motor reproduction. In addition to observing behavior, learning can also take place through vicarious reinforcement which essentially means observing the rewards and punishments that others achieve from what they do. Vicarious reinforcement implies that when a particular behavior is constantly rewarded, it is most likely to be repeated in future; conversely, when another behavior is always punished, then it will more likely desist (Renzetti, Curran, & Maier, 2012). Social learning theory as developed by Albert Bandura expands on the traditional theories of behavior which posit that behavior is largely controlled by reinforcements which in turn, emphasizes the critical roles of the internal processes of a learning individual.
The entire field of study of social learning theory borrows a lot from cognitive and behavioral theories to offer a comprehensive framework that can be used to explain the different learning experiences that take place in the actual world. In his book titled Social Learning and Personality Development, Albert Bandura outlined the key features of social learning theory as (1) learning not being entirely behavioral but rather as a cognitive process which occurs in a social context, (2) learning can also take place via vicarious reinforcement, i.e., observing behavior and its subsequent consequences, (3) learning by observation involves extracting information from the observations and making decisions informed by the performance of that behavior, (4) reinforcement is important in the learning process but it not wholly responsible, and (5) learners are not passive recipients of information. Indeed, the environment, cognition, and behavior mutually affect each other (Bandura, 1963). In the context of learning, some theories have been traditionally used to explain the learning process. One of the dominant theories in the 19th century is operant and classical conditioning.
Operant and Classical Conditioning
In 1947, B.F. Skinner came forth with a more empirical based approach to the process of learning. In this approach, he proposed a stimulus-response theory which could be used to explain how learners acquire language and developed speech. According to Skinner (1947), verbal behavior was largely dictated by operant conditioning where learned behavior was dependent on rewards and/or punishments which also formed the premise of this theory. Skinner opined that if behavior was rewarded, it was more likely to be repeated in similar circumstances. However, if a particular behavior was punished, it was less likely to be repeated.
Skinner used the box experiment to prove this hypothesis, and in it, a rat was placed in a box, and a button which opened a trap door that dropped food pellets into the cage was also put within the box. Initially, the rat moved haphazardly inside the box in no clear pattern but after repeated movements, it stumbled on the button, and food pellets dropped into the box. Over time, Skinner noticed that the movements of the rat were more purposeful – the rat apparently learned that touching the button made food to drop into the box. Thus whenever the rat became hungry, it would touch the button knowing that food would drop into its box (Skinner, 1948). In this experiment, Skinner demonstrated empirically how the reinforcement system worked – on touching the button it was rewarded with food, but if it didn’t touch the button it would get hungry (punishment).
Classical conditioning was reinforced by an experiment conducted by Ivan Pavlov at the beginning of the 19th century. The experiment sought to show that new behaviors can be learned via the process of association because associative learning is mostly influenced by mental mechanisms. The theory proposes that an unconditioned response can be conditioned by pairing an involuntary response with a stimulus. In the Pavlov dog experiment, the dog was gradually taught to associate the sound of a ringing bell with food such that when the bell rang even when there was no food presented afterwards, the dog still salivated because it had come to associate the ringing of the bell with the presentation of food (Pavlov Classical Conditioning, 2017).
Attention and memory
The learning process is heavily reliant on attention and memory. Definitively, attention is the ability to process information selectively while memory is the ability to store information in a state where it is easily accessible (Fougnie, 2008). An individual’s capacity to perform complex tasks is believed to be dependent on his/her ability to retain task-relevant information and to process selective information from the environment. The interaction between working memory and attention is not very clear in most theoretical learning models, but there seems to be a consensus that attention plays a role in determining the type of information that will be stored in the working memory. For example, a person driving in a new city has to pay attention to details along the route he is using. This will help him when he returns to use the same route because he retained valuable information during the initial process.
There is evidence that attention influences both early and late processing stages and this have led to the perception that attention selection exists in different forms. One taxonomy of attention that has been developed over time and posits that there are three networks of attention each with its distinct roles – executive, alerting, and orienting attention (Fougnie, 2008). The network of alerting attention controls the state of responding to stimulation by the senses. The orienting attention network selects a specific set of sensory information that is due for privileged processing such as noise reduction, distractor suppression, and neural boosting (Fougnie, 2008). The network of executive attention determines post-sensory representations and plays a core role when there are competing pieces of information to access a central system of a limited system. Paradigms of central attention include stroop and flanker tasks, and the performance of speed dual-tasks.
Working memory is a multifaceted construct that exists in different states depending on the type of information they store. As such, spatial, verbal, and visual information are all stored in different memory stores. Evidence is also emerging that processes involved in storing information in the WM are different from the processes that update the contents in WM (Engle & Kane, 2002). As such, it is conceivable that WM and attention co-exist in a non-unitary state and that therefore the interaction between attention and WM may boil down to the type of information that is being processed.
Decision-making is a cognitive process that results in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives, which mirrors the values, beliefs, and preferences of the individual making the decision (Kahneman & Tversky, 2000). Most problems are solved (presumably) by the rationality of the decisions made, but not all decisions are rational because of the nature of humans to be subjective when engaging in decision-making processes. An important part of decision-making involves analyzing a finite set of options using evaluative criteria during which the task may be ranking these options according to how reasonable they look to the decision-maker. Similarly, the decision-maker may be tasked with finding the best alternative among many ordinarily good alternatives by considering all criteria simultaneously.
Modern science-based professions typically use logic to make decisions. In these instances, the specialists use their acquired knowledge to make their decisions. For example, a doctor prescribes the appropriate medication after making a diagnosis which is purely based on his knowledge about the condition of the patient. However, there are instances where people use intuition to make decisions instead of structured approaches. This mostly happens in situations where the pressure is high, and there is a lot of pressure and many ambiguities.
Studies indicated that there are factors that can affect the decision-making process and one of such factors is environmental complexity. A complex environment is defined as a situation where there exists a large number of different states coming and going over time (Godfrey-Smith, 2001). Research conducted at the University of Colorado shows that the more complex an environment is, the higher the impact on the cognitive functions and that subsequently, this leads to multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) as a problem-solving skill. Typically, problem analysis precedes decision-making, and in the same vein, there are several decision-making techniques and problem analysis that can be used by the modern day manager to aid his decision-making process (Guo, 2008).
When it comes to language development, there are four main theoretical perspectives, and they are interactionist, nativist, cognitive development, and behaviorist theories. The interactionist theory developed by Lev Vygotsky posits that language development is controlled by nurturing and that language acquisition occurs due to the level of social interaction that people have with their environment (Otto, 2010). Vygotsky argues that infants and children learn language through communicating with their environments and that in this case, reinforcement plays a minimal role. Also, children develop a knowledge of language because of environmental motivators which bequeath unto them an innate desire to acquire and understand all aspects of their language such as interaction patterns, the communication loops, and communication skills like responding after listening.
Noah Chomsky, on the other hand, came up with the theory that nature has ingrained in humans a natural ability to acquire syntax knowledge in any form (Lidz & Waxman, 2003). According to Chomsky, children use hypothesis testing to learn the various aspects of language and manipulate seemingly complex grammatical structures while at a very young age. The cognitive development theory is similar to the nativist theory in that its proponents believe nature is the force behind learning the language. However, the CDT doesn’t support the theory of inborn language learning instincts but rather speculates that language develops as an individual’s cognitive skills develop. According to Jean Piaget, once an individual can represent symbols in their mind, they can create words which in turn enables them to acquire language.
Then there is the behaviorist theory which opines that nurture is the most important aspect of language acquisition. According to B.F. Skinner, language is learned as a consequent of various reinforcements provided by the environment. In other words, infants start to associate specific stimuli with certain responses and with persistent reinforcement, they develop appropriate responses and behaviors that correspond to these stimuli (Bavin, 2009). For example, going by operant conditioning, infants gradually learn the sounds that elicit favorable responses. This can be achieved by imitating speech sounds they hear from adults, and if they receive a positive response, they internalize the sound and repeat it as often as they can.
Organizational and lifelong learning
Lifelong learning is now more essential than ever before given the present day’s knowledge-based economy characterized by high technology. Organizations view continued learning as the only way for them to achieve results in the present and also in the future. These organizations expect their employees to grow and develop, but the support for these kinds of development varies in many western countries with a characteristic stratification of employees being one of the impediments. This means the greatest amount of resources are channeled to high potential employees such as knowledge workers and managers. However, in some cases, organizations may offer resources to their employees, but these are often self-directed in pursuing performance goals and annual development (Watkins, Marsick, & Kim, 2011).
There is an implicit relationship between the concept of a learning organization and lifelong learning thus for the organization and the individual, learning is not just about survival but for improving the quality of life. Indeed, many academicians agree that to succeed in the current competitive business environment; organizations need strategic learning. One aspect that necessitates the need for continued learning is the nature and rate of change. According to Walker (2001), the business world is in a state of perpetual turbulence consisting of costly, mess, and unpreventable events. The bad news is that this state is expected to intensify and proliferate, but the good news is that we can restore and maintain a sense of purpose in this chaotic environment by learning to “thrive on chaos” at the same time as we achieve internal stability without rigidity.
Walker (2001) opines that there are times when managers create crises to renew their organizations in what is called ‘ethical anarchy.’ Besides the new skill, values, and attitudes that the turbulent business environment requires, employees have to be effective learners and thus organizational learning ought to be used as the model for managing education by combining anarchy and managed change. Thus as machines become smarter, employees have no other choice than to revamp themselves at every opportunity.
Applying behaviorism and social learning theories in the real world
As a future Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, my main areas of interest are problem-solving and mentorship. Typically, organizational psychologists employ psychological principles to help them solve problems in their places of work and in so doing improve quality of life. To be better performers, they have to analyze workplace productivity, management, and the working styles of employees. This helps them get to feel the morale as well as the personality of the company and the information they glean from these episodes they share with the management to assist in formulating plans and policies, undertake training and screening sessions, and develop plans to use in the future (Organizational Psychology Job Description: What You’ll Do, 2018).
The objective of industrial psychologists is to improve work processes and foster a conducive environment. Achieving these means making sure that the right employees are employed for the right job which means there is a lot of liaising with the Human Resource department to ensure that only qualified employees are employed. This is in line with their mandate of improving work processes thus increasing business efficiency. In this regard, it is important for the IP to know and understand behaviorism and social learning theories. Knowing how to improve employee performance may come down to how operant and classical conditioning is performed within the workplace. For example, rewarding hardworking employees either with cash incentives or promotions is a classic case of operant conditioning because once employees know that hard work is immediately repaid, they get motivated to work even harder. In the same vein, this theory prescribes that punitive measures are taken against workers that don’t exert themselves, and while this not intended to punish them, it can be done in more subtle ways such as being demoted or passed for promotion, no salary increments and etcetera.
The other area of importance is mentorship. The Webster dictionary defines mentorship as the relationship where the more qualified employee guides, the less qualified worker. It is a process that involves a lot of communication, and it is inevitable that a relationship is forged between a mentor and the mentee. Mentoring is a good form of career development and is usually primed at imparting knowledge and expertise on a junior less knowledgeable employee in preparation to advancing to positions of higher responsibility (Eby, Allen, & Evans, 2008). For an industrial psychologist, this is a critical area because it is tied to the future of the organization. Under the topic of organizational and lifelong learning, this paper discussed the tumultuous nature of the present day business environment and that continued learning is essential if an organization wants to survive in the future.
Mentorship offers such organizations a lifeline to secure their future in the present. It is an inexpensive way to educated employees because not many resources are deployed in training. An industrial psychologist is therefore tasked with identifying the right form of mentorship that is best tailored to meet the demands of the organization. Obviously, this is one of the situations where the decision-making skills of the IP comes into good use. Other aspects that have been discussed such as memory and attention can be used to assess the suitability of specific employees when being assessed for knowledge jobs (Eby et al., 2008). Naturally, employees that exhibit good memory and longer attention spans can be selected to head teams and organize employees for maximum productivity. In conclusion, the relevance of behaviorism and social learning theories to the work of an industrial psychologist cannot be downplayed, and the mastery of these concepts is a vital tool in the proper execution of their duties.
Bandura, A. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Bavin, E. (2009). The Cambridge Handbook of Child Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eby, L., Allen, T., & Evans, S. (2008). Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 254–267.
Fougnie, D. (2008). The Relationship between Attention and Working Memory. (N. B. Johansen, Ed.) Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Godfrey-Smith, P. (2001). Environmental complexity and the evolution of cognition. In R. J. Sternberg, & J. C. Kaufman, The evolution of intelligence (pp. 223–250). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Guo, K. L. (2008). DECIDE: a decision-making model for more effective decision making by health care managers. The Health Care Manager, 27(2), 118–127.
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (2000). Choices, values, and frames. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lidz, J., & Waxman. (2003). What infants know about syntax but couldn't have learned:experimental evidence for syntactic structure at 18 months. Cognition 89, 65-73.
Organizational Psychology Job Description: What You’ll Do. (2018).
Otto, B. W. (2010). Language Development in Early Childhood Education (4 ed.). New York: Pearson Publishing.
Pavlov Classical Conditioning. (2017).
Renzetti, C., Curran, D., & Maier, S. (2012). Women, Men, and Society. Carmel, Indiana : Pearson Publishing.
Skinner, B. F. (1948). VERBAL BEHAVIOR. William James Lectures. Harvard University Press.
Walker, J. (2001). Lifelong Learning and the Learning Organization. In D. Aspin, J. Chapman, M. Hatton, & Y. Sawano, International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (Vol. 6). Springer, Dordrecht.
Watkins, K. E., Marsick, V., & Kim, Y. S. (2011). The Impact of Lifelong Learning on Organizations. In D. C. Aspin, K. Evans, & R. Bagnall, Second International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Springer, Dordrecht.
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