Chapter 15: Learning to Be a Person
SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY
Behaviourism boasts high standards to scientific rigour and many practical applications, but it may not tell the whole
story. (eg. Chimpanzees could develop insight, doing more than just learning from reward):
1) Ignores motivation, thought, and cognition, which social learning theorists claim are important processes of
learning that must be researched.
2) Mostly bases studies in animals, because they are searching for laws of learning that are relevant to all
species. However, not all species are the same, especially humans.
3) Ignores the social dimension of learning. Observation and interaction are missing.
4) Treats the organisms as largely passive (eg. randomize rat to an automated box) but humans can choose their
environments and even influence them to change.
Dollard and Miller’s Social Learning Theory
Habit Hierarchy: All of the behaviours an individual might do, ranked in order from most to least probable
• Eg. At the moment, reading is at the top of my habit hierarchy, while snacking might be somewhere near the top,
and drunk driving is at the very bottom
• The effect of rewards, punishments, and learning is to rearrange the habit hierarchy
• Deviates from classic behaviourism in a major way: Skinner says learning changes behaviour, Dollard and Miller
claim that learning changes the arrangement of an unobservable psychological entity, the habit hierarchy (which
is in effect the personality)
Drive Reduction Theory: Drives may be primary (physiologically based) or secondary (learned). Drives create needs,
which produce behaviours to satisfy them. This satisfaction produces reinforcement, which makes the behaviour
increasingly likely to occur in the future.
• Needs produced by psychological drives
• A drive is a state of psychological tension that feels good when the tension is reduced (pleasure comes from
satisfying the need that produced the drive)
o Primary drive: physiologically based (food, water, physical comfort, avoidance of physical pain, sexual
o Secondary drive: learned (positive drives for love, prestige, money, and power, as well as negative drives
such as avoidance of fear and humiliation)
o In the process of development, secondary drive comes after the primary drive
o Reinforcement: when a reward satisfies a need, it encourages the target behaviour to happen again
• Raises the question that our ultimate goal is to achieve a state of “zero need” which isn’t true
o Perhaps true reinforcement is actually a movement from a state of higher need to a state of lower need
(the difference between the initial and final states matter most… explains why people purposely increase
levels of existing needs before seeking satisfaction)
FrustrationAggregation Hypothesis: The natural, biological reaction of any person (or animal) to being blocked from a
goal, is to be frustrated, with the resulting urge to lash out and injure. The more important the blocked goal, the greater the
frustration, and the greater the aggressive impulse.
• Can displace anger or frustration from its original target
ApproachAvoidance Conflict: Tendencies to approach or avoid a goal that is both attractive and dreaded (eg. a bungee
jump) may approach over time. Both tendencies increase as the goal gets closer, but the avoidance gradient is steeper than the approach gradient. The person will try to back out of the act at the point where the two gradients cross (eg. a last
minute cancellation of the bungee jump).
• Committing to a behaviour that has both positive and negative elements might be easy when it is far off in time,
but as the moment of truth approaches, the negative aspects seem more prominent than the positive aspects. In the
end we may not be able to go through with it.
Five key assumptions:
1) An increase in drive strength will increase the tendency to approach or avoid a goal.
2) Whenever there are two competing response, the stronger one (ie. The one with greater driving strength behind it) will
3) The tendency to approach a positive goal increases the as one gets closer to the goal.
4) The tendency to avoid a negative goal also increases the as one gets closer to the goal.
5) Most importantly, tendency 3 >4. That is, as a negative goal becomes nearer, the tendency to avoid it becomes stronger
more rapidly that does the tendency to approach a positive goal (ie. The avoidance gradient is steeper than the approach
Rotter’s Social Learning Theory
Expectancy Value Theory: The value and perceived attainability of a goal combine to affect the probability of a goal
• Expectancy: The degree to which an individual believes a behaviour will probably attain its goal
o Expectancies shape behaviour even when they are inaccurate
o Classic behaviourism focuses on actual rewards and punishments, while Rotter’s social learning variant
focuses on beliefs about reward and punishment
o A person’s impressions of reality are more important than reality itself (phenomenology)
o Specific expectancy: Belief that a certain behaviour at a certain time and place will lead to a specific
o Generalized expectancy: Generalized beliefs about whether anything you do is likely to make a
difference (low: belief that one has little control over what happens; high: belief that reinforcements and
punishments are directly a function of one’s actions).
Broad personality variable… “trait”
“Locus of control”: (internal locus of control=high generalized expectancy etc.)
Different loci of control across the domains of life (eg. health, dating, academic)
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
• Generally ignores the stable differences between people
• Emphasizes the social nature of learning and ways people interact with the situations in their lives
Efficacy expectation: One’s belief that one can perform a given goaldirected behaviour
• Similar to Rotter’s expectancies in that both refer to the belief that one can accomplish something successfully,
but also carry the phenomenological implication that one’s interpretation of reality matters more than reality itself
• Selfefficacy: One’s beliefs about the degree to which one will be able to accomplish a goal, if one tries
• Selfconcept: A person’s knowledge and opinions about himself or herself
• Bandura’s efficacy is the perceived probability that you can do something in the first place (as opposed to Rotter’s
notion of perceived conditional probability that if you do something, then you will attain your goal) • Efficacy expectations should be the key target for therapeutic interventions: if you achieve a better match between
what you think you can accomplish what you really can accomplish, your life will be more rational and
• Efficacies can also create capacities; increases in selfefficacy can increase motivation and performance
• To bring about selfchange, it is good to force yourself something you are reluctant to do because it will become
less difficult the next time
• JUST DO IT! J
Observational learning: Learning a behaviour by watching someone else do it
• Many animals can learn from observation, not just humans
• “Bobo doll” studies: a child who watches an adult hit the Bobo doll is likely to later hit the doll as well, especially
if the child sees the adult rewarded for the aggressive behaviour (serious implications of the probable effects on
children of glamourized and rewarded acts of violence on television)
• Positive role models
Reciprocal determinism: Persons, their environments, and their behaviours all affect each other in a constantly ongoing