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Social learning theory

Sociallearning theory


Sociallearning theory

Oneof the core assumptions of social learning theory is that learning isa cognitive process which occurs through direct instructions andobservation. This means that people are likely to commit crimethrough association with others who are already involved in thepractice. was developed by Akers who was alsoa behavioral sociologist. Akers described the social learning theoryas an integration of different behavioral learning theories anddifferential association. When Akers presented the social learningtheory, it drew attention from the public and his fellow researchers.This essay is going to analyze the empirical status of sociallearning theory was explained by Akers in his first publicationtitled “Social learning and deviant behavior: A specific test of ageneral theory.&quot


Akersarticle wanted to test the social learning theory. The theory hadfour key components and these included differential association,differential reinforcement, imitation, and definition. According toAkers, elements of differential reinforcement such as punishment,conditioning, and operant conditioning heavily influence behaviorism.Respondent conditioning elicits involuntary actions such assalivation while operant behavior results in voluntary behaviors andanalyzes the nature of consequences that would result from certainbehaviors. Akers included imitation into the social learning theorybecause it occurs through observing other people and whether anindividual borrows a behavior depends on the extent or degree ofidentification.

Theconcept of differential association played a vital role in the sociallearning theory because it determined who would serve as role models.This concept ties social learning theory and learning of deviantbehavior. Akers defined definition as the evaluation of expressionsuch as approvals and disapproval of a particular behavior. In thesocial learning theory, this referred to the attitude formed by anindividual towards a particular behavior. It is the one which isoften subject to moral principles and looks at some aspects of normviolation. Defiant behaviors are common in neutralizing definitions.

Thedependent variable for this study was the frequency-of-scale whichmeasured abuse among users by combining their responses with aqueuing frequency thus producing a list indicating the extent ofabuse. For example, it produced a four-point abuse scale which rangedfrom no abuse to heavy abuse. Consequently, the independentvariables included different reinforcement, definitions, differentialassociation and imitation. The research combined social withnon-social reinforcement. The named independent variables where theoperationalized by using a set of items that measured a differentaspect of each concept. The collected data was then analyzed usingregression technique so as to provide an overall summary of thefindings.

Invalidating the research hypothesis and findings, the study used bothqualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Studyparticipants were young adolescent’s alcohol and Marijuana users.Data were collected by administering questionnaires to 3065 males andtheir female counterparts attending seventh grade through 12 in sevencommunities located in Midwestern states. Additionally, the schoolswere sample depending on their average class size per grade level.The selected study group was significant so as to ensure that thecollected data was an actual representation of the society. Onehypothesis of the study was that the author expected that for bothdrugs and alcohol, the probability of abstinence decrease and thefrequency of use increase when there is a greater exposure unlike inresistant model. Another hypothesis of the study was that among usersthe probability of abuse increase with more exposure to abusing andnot because of moderate or abstinent models

Someof the research propositions included that criminal behaviors arelearned based on the principles of operant conditioning, social andnon-social situations. Consequently, it was evident from the analysisthat criminal behaviors such as specific attitudes and techniques areinfluenced by available reinforces and already existing reinforcementcontingencies. The study also confirmed that a criminal behavior’sstrength is highly influenced the probability and frequency of itsreinforcement (Akers, 1979). Akers stated that avoidance ofpunishment and positive rewards help in reinforced aggression.Towards the end of the experiment, it was evident that the resultsobtained from the test supported the theory because all the dependentvariables were related to the social learning theory. The sociallearning theory has been embraced by Practitioners in various socialsettings. It has been used to educate adolescent children essentialcommunication and socialization skills


Inconclusion, it is evident that the social learning theory has beenpivotal in explaining human behavior and how people acquire certaintraits and characteristics. In his, research Akers investigated onalcohol and marijuana use among 3065 males and their femalecounterparts and conforms concluded that criminal behaviors arelearned based on the principles of operant conditioning, social andnon-social situations. Additionally, he also claims that the strengthof a criminal behavior depends on the probability and frequency ofits reinforcement. The interpretation of this is therefore thatpeople are likely to commit crime through association with others whoare already involved in the practice.


Akers,R. L., Krohn, M. D., Lanza-Kaduce, L., &amp Radosevich, M. (1979).Social learning and deviant behavior: A specific test of a generaltheory.&nbspAmericanSociological Review,636-655.