Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Social Learning Theory Gender

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Social Learning Theory Gender

Social Learning Theory (SLT) is a psychological approach that combines both behaviourist and cognitive concepts, originally proposed by Albert Bandura in 1977. This theory suggests that we learn our behaviours from the people around us by observing and imitating them. Then, based on what kind of reinforcement we receive, we internalise (or not) that behaviour.

But what does the social learning theory say about gender? How does social learning theory account for gender role development?

Social learning theory gender: Albert Bandura’s Bobo doll study (1961)

In his 1961 experiment, Bandura showed that children demonstrate social learning. In this study, the 72 children (who were between 3-6 years old) watched either a male or female model interact with a toy clown called Bobo.

In one condition, the model behaved in an aggressive manner, using violence towards the Bobo doll. In another condition, the model behaved in a relaxed manner and played with different toys gently and quietly. The final condition was a control condition, in which the children did not observe a model.

All the children then experienced what Bandura suggested was ‘mild aggression arousal’. To achieve this, the researcher would allow each child to play with some desired toys in a room for a short while, and then they would ask the child to move to another room, as these were their ‘best toys’ and they wanted to save them for other children.

The new room that the children entered had two different categories of toys: aggressive (eg: the Bobo doll, a mallet and peg set, etc.) or non-aggressive (eg: plastic farm animals, a tea set, etc.). The researchers observed the children for 20 minutes through a one-way mirror. They used a timed observation method, taking notes every 5 seconds.

Social Learning Theory Gender Bobo doll StudySmarterIllustration of a Bobo doll.

What did Bandura find?

The study found that the children who saw an aggressive model were much more likely to imitate that aggression towards the doll. Researchers also found that boys were more likely to imitate same-sex models.

Evaluation of Bandura (1961)

Let’s review some of the study’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

  • Lab experiments like this one often offer strong evidence towards their hypothesis, as they usually require all confounding variables to be controlled. As this study was conducted in a lab, it is likely that this aspect of its design improves its validity.

  • The study uses a standardised method. This is helpful as it allows other researchers to replicate the study to test whether the results are replicable, which makes the study more generalisable. For example, Bandura replicated the study using videos of models rather than having the models show their behaviours in person and found very similar results (Bandura, 1963).

Weaknesses

  • Due to the highly controlled lab environment where the study was conducted, the conditions used lack ecological validity. This means that, as the scenarios in the study are unlikely to occur in everyday life, it is hard to generalise its findings to everyday life.

  • Another criticism of the study is that the researchers recorded the children’s behaviours in a short space of time, and they didn’t conduct any follow-up. This means that we don’t know whether these behaviors were internalised or not, and therefore if the children had learned the behaviour, as Bandura suggests, or were just simply copying what they had seen.

Social learning theory of gender role development

Social learning theory explains how we pick up certain behaviours from the people around us, and we can apply this knowledge to our understanding of how we develop certain gendered behaviours. For example, a child could be exhibiting gender-specific behaviours due to them copying role models of their same sex such as their older siblings.

Culture and gender

Using our knowledge of SLT, we can understand how the culture we grow up in can have an influence on our gender expression.

In the Western world, we see gender in a very binary way with two options: male or female. Children in these cultures tend to develop very rigid ideas about gender and will often exhibit very similar gendered behaviours. A child from a culture like this may experience negative reinforcement when they imitate behaviours that don’t match their gender and therefore are likely to only internalise gender-specific behaviours.

In other cultures, gender is expressed in different ways. For example, in a study by Margaret Mead (1935), she discovered that in different tribes in Papua New Guinea, gender roles varied greatly. In the Arapesh tribe, both men and women exhibited similar, gentle behaviors. However, in the Tchambuli tribe, women showed dominant behaviours whilst men showed dependent behaviours.

Social Learning Theory Gender A picture depicting a group of new guineans StudySmarterIndigenous people of New Guinea. Source: Frans Hubby CC-BY-3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Mead’s research shows that there are differences in gender across cultures, supporting the idea that gender is learned rather than innate.

Media and gender

SLT can also help to explain how the media we consume affects gender expression. In Bandura’s 1963 variation of the Bobo doll study, the children watched videos of models interacting with Bobo rather than seeing them in person, and this produced very similar results to the original study. This suggests that media can have an effect on behaviour.

An example could be children’s cartoons. If a young girl watches a cartoon in which a female character that she likes acts a certain way, she is likely to imitate that behaviour. This could result in her internalising feminine behaviours that the character displays, which then become part of her gender expression. Cartoons may also portray genders in certain ways. If a young boy watches cartoons where men are stereotypically strong, macho, and never cry, the young boy may believe that is the way boys are supposed to be.

Children can also be influenced by advertising. Just think of gender stereotypical toys: Barbies for girls, pink scooters, pink bikes, dollhouses. The toys advertised for boys are soldiers, guns, cars. Advertisements such as these can influence gender development as they portray a certain way that boys and girls should be.

Research has shown that the media's portrayal of gender can reinforce a child’s idea of gender stereotypes. Children tend to pay attention to those of the same gender/sex, and then imitate their behaviours later on. After performing these behaviours around other people, how others react (through punishment or rewarding) reinforces or discourages these gender-coded behaviours further.

Influential models on TV, for instance, in gender-specific advertisements will likely affect a child’s personal choices and behaviours.

Social learning theory of gender development evaluation

Let’s take a look at some strengths and weaknesses of social learning theory and how well it explains gender.

Strengths of SLT

  • Dweck et al. (1978) found that in schools, girls were reinforced for working neatly whereas boys were reinforced for getting answers correct. This suggests that there are gender differences in how we reinforce certain behaviours. This study supports the social learning theory, as it states that reinforcement influences our internalisation of certain behaviours.

  • Williams (1986) found that in a town where television had just been introduced, children showed far more gender-stereotyped behaviours two years later. This suggests that the models and advertisements on the television programs the children were watching may have influenced their gender expression.

  • Perry and Bussy (1979) showed film clips of children choosing different fruits to boys and girls aged 8-9. When they were asked to choose a fruit themselves, children often imitated the choice of the ir same sex model. This replicates Banduras findings which supports the social learning theory.

Weaknesses of SLT

  • Many of the studies researching SLT were conducted in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The newest of these studies are still around 40 years old. This means that they may not be applicable to modern-day gender roles. We can call this having low temporal validity.

  • SLT does not explain how children from single-parent or same-sex parent homes still have stable gender identities that are consistent with those from heterosexual parent families, despite potentially not having a same sex role model.

    Social Learning Theory Gender Gay dad and baby StudySmarterTwo gay dads and their child.

    Social Learning Theory Gender - Key takeaways

    • The social learning theory (SLT) is a psychological approach combining both behaviorist and cognitive concepts, originally proposed by Albert Bandura in 1977.
    • This theory suggests that we learn our behaviours from the people around us by observing and imitating them. Then, based on what kind of reinforcement we receive, we internalise (or not) that behaviour.
    • Bandura’s Bobo doll study found that the children who saw an aggressive model were much more likely to imitate that aggression towards the doll. They also found that boys were more likely to imitate same-sex models.
    • Using our knowledge of SLT, we can understand how the culture we grow up in can have an influence on our gender expression. Research has shown that gender expression can vary from culture to culture.
    • SLT can also help to explain how the media we observe can affect gender expression. Media such as TV shows and advertisements can have an influence on gender development.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Learning Theory Gender

Social Learning Theory (SLT) is a psychological approach that combines both behaviourist and cognitive concepts, originally proposed by Albert Bandura in 1977. This theory suggests that we learn our behaviours from the people around us by observing and imitating them. Then, based on what kind of reinforcement we receive, we internalise (or not) that behaviour.

An example of this is Bandura’s 1961 Bobo doll study, in which he found that children would act aggressively towards a doll if this behaviour was modelled for them by an adult.

Social learning theory suggests that we learn our behaviours from the people around us, by observing and imitating them. 

The 5 principles of social learning theory, also known as mediational processes, are observation (seeing a behaviour), attention (how much we notice the behaviour), retention (how well we remember the behaviour), reproduction (whether or not we repeat the behaviour), and motivation (our drive to imitate the behaviour).

The key concept of social learning theory is that we learn from imitating people around us, which we call models. By imitating and receiving reinforcement, we internalise new behaviors.

Final Social Learning Theory Gender Quiz

Question

Who proposed the Social Learning Theory?

Show answer

Answer

Albert Bandura


Show question

Question

When was social learning theory first researched?

Show answer

Answer

1961

Show question

Question

What was the name of Bandura's initial study into social learning theory?

Show answer

Answer

The bobo doll study

Show question

Question

How old were the participants in Bandura's initial study into social learning theory?


Show answer

Answer

3-6

Show question

Question

Define Social Learning Theory.


Show answer

Answer

Social Learning Theory (SLT) is a psychological approach that combines both behaviourist and cognitive concepts, originally proposed by Albert Bandura in 1977. This theory suggests that we learn our behaviours from the people around us by observing and imitating them. Then, based on what kind of reinforcement we receive, we internalise (or not) that behaviour.

Show question

Question

What were the results of Bandura's 1961 study?


Show answer

Answer

The study found that the children who saw an aggressive model were much more likely to imitate that aggression towards the doll when observed. They also found that boys were more likely to imitate same-sex models.

Show question

Question

What type of role models are children more likely to copy?


Show answer

Answer

Role models that are the same gender.

Show question

Question

What observation method was used in Bandura's 1961 study?


Show answer

Answer

Timed observation

Show question

Question

Why is it positive that Bandura used a lab experiment?


Show answer

Answer

Lab experiments like this one often offer strong evidence towards their hypothesis, as they usually require all confounding variables to be controlled. As this study was conducted in a lab, it is likely that this aspect of its design improves its validity.

Show question

Question

What is a weakness of Bandura's 1961 study?

Show answer

Answer

Due to the highly controlled lab environment where the study was conducted, the conditions used lack ecological validity. This means that, as the scenarios in the study are unlikely to occur in everyday life, it is hard to generalize its findings to everyday life as well.

Show question

Question

Give an example of how culture affects gender


Show answer

Answer

A study by Margaret Mead discovered that in different tribes in Papua New Guinea, gender roles varied greatly. In the Arapesh tribe, both men and women exhibited similar, gentle behaviors, however, in the Tchambuli tribe, women showed dominant behaviors whilst men showed dependent behaviors.

Show question

Question

What does Mead's research tell us about gender?


Show answer

Answer

Mead's research shows that there are differences in gender across cultures, supporting the idea that gender is learned rather than innate.

Show question

Question

Give a strength of social learning theory as an explanation of gender.


Show answer

Answer

Dweck et al (1978) found that in schools, girls were reinforced for working neatly whereas boys were reinforced for getting answers correct. These suggests that there are gender differences in how we reinforce certain behaviours. This supports the social learning theory, as it states that reinforcement influences our internalisation of behaviour.

Show question

Question

Give a limitation of social learning theory as an explanation of gender.


Show answer

Answer

SLT does not explain how children from single-parent or same-sex parent homes still have stable gender identities that are consistent with those from heterosexual parent families, despite potentially not having a same-sex role model.

Show question

More about Social Learning Theory Gender
60%

of the users don't pass the Social Learning Theory Gender quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.