Social Learning Theory
The main aspects of the social learning theory also known as the social cognitive theory were developed by Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel in the 20th century. The theory is based on three main concepts and their correlation. These concepts are personality, environment, and behavior (Bandura, 1997). That is why the theory depends on the social perspectives and the ideas of behaviorists (Filingeri, 2011).
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According to the theory, while observing definite models of behaviors, a person can think them over and behave in relation to these models. Thus, a man learns these behaviors in the social context (environment) and imitates them in his behavior. Moreover, the environmental and cognitive factors are in a constant interaction and the other people’s models of behavior influence our reactions, attitudes, and actions (Bandura, 1997).
This theory can be considered as credible with references to its main notions of reciprocal determinism and self-efficacy. Thus, many psychologists support the idea that an individual’s behavior is predominantly influenced by the environment and the interactions with other people and by personal traits which should be analyzed in their connection and interdependence. Mischel also adds such cognitive factors as expectancies, personal values and goals for forming the behavior (Filingeri, 2011).
The social cognitive theory accounts for such aspects of personality as cognition (observation, analysis) and social behaviour according to definite models. Nevertheless, it does not include biological and hormonal factors which can influence the person’s attitude to the environment and his behavior without depending on the social context (Filingeri, 2011). That is why such major concepts of the social learning theory as the idea that people can learn through observation and the impact of knowledge on the behavior can be argued.
In their work, Cervone and Pervin accentuate that the aspects of the social cognitive theory developed by Bandura were too generalized with focusing on the average person and without paying attention to the variables in personalities.
However, Mischel improved the description of the theory with working out the concepts of the variation patterns in the personal behaviour. Nevertheless, the social cognitive theory is still discussed as mainly basing on social aspects on which the cognitive factors depend without explaining the innate motivations for the actions (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).
In their researches, Gordon Allport and Hans Eysenck developed the opinion that a personality and the peculiarities of his or her behavior can be described with the help of discussing those traits which prevail in this personality (Filingeri, 2011). According to Allport’s point of view, a trait can be considered as a stable characteristic of a personality (Allport, 2011).
Moreover, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that traits can be common (inherited, typical for all people) as well as unique (the features of their realization in the personal character). To analyze the peculiar features of traits and their influence on a personality, Allport determined three levels of the realization of traits in the personal character which are cardinal, central, and secondary traits (Allport, 2011).
The main advantage of the theory is in the fact that it depends on the innate personal characteristics without focusing primarily on the social context, but considering it as the conditions for presenting the reactions.
However, the discussion of five main aspects of personality or five main traits with their variables as the main concepts of the trait theory (the Big Five) limited the theoretical considerations to the situation of analyzing the personality only according to these five traits without discussing the social context as the influential aspect. Thus, these major traits are extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness to experience, and dependability (Filingeri, 2011).
In spite of the fact the trait theory accounts for personal physical, moral, and behavioral characteristics, they are considered as not equal in determining the personal behavior or reactions. The main accent is made on the moral aspect when the physical characteristic only accentuates the inherited nature of traits, and the behavioral factor is only necessary for understanding the realization the traits (Allport, 2011).
Nevertheless, the investigations on the issues of the trait theory were conducted with basing on the examination of the peculiarities of the language and the usage of verbal characterizations for personalities and their traits, not the personal behavior (Filingeri, 2011). That is why this theory lacks the practical support for its main concepts.
It is impossible to explain the impulsive and situational personal actions which cannot be considered as the part of the personality of this or that man with references to this theory. Thus, the theory does not account for immediate personal behaviors and reactions which are affected by the outside conditions (Filingeri, 2011).
Evaluating the comprehensiveness of the trait theory, Cervone and Pervin concentrate on such aspects that the theory is rather inappropriate for explaining all the personality aspects because it focuses only on some of them. Moreover, it is impossible to consider a personality only according to his or her stable traits because the personality can change with the situation, and the theory does not discuss the causes for behavior which cannot be explained with focusing only on several traits of character (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).
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Allport, G. (2011). Concepts of trait and personality. USA: Cambridge University Press.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy in changing societies. USA: Cambridge University Press.
Cervone, D., & Pervin, L.A. (2010). Personality: Theory and research. USA: Wiley.
Filingeri, V. S. (2011). Comprehensive review of psychology. USA: First Edition Design.