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Middle Range Theories: Social Learning


The Social Learning Theory is a universal theory that describes learning and development. Invented by Albert Bandura, the theory highlights the relevance of observing and modeling behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of other people (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). The theory boasts that learning comes through observation, and it combines cognitive learning theory influenced by psychological factors, and behavioral learning theory determined by environmental stimuli (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). Bandura integrated the two theories to form the social learning theory that has surpassed its predecessors to become very influential.

Social Learning Theory operates on three basic concepts. One concept of the theory claims that people can learn through observation (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). For example, if a child is observing an adult engaging in a specific act, the child is bound to copy and do the same and in the process, the child will have learnt (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). The second concept highlights the relevance of the mental state and observes that mental states are necessary for a learning experience (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988).

According to the theory, mental states, also known as intrinsic reinforcements, include states like satisfaction, accomplishment and pride (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). The third concept of the social learning theory explains that learning does not assure behavioral change (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). Instead, it claims that people can learn new information without changing their behaviors (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988).

However, the theory’s functionality is shown through the use of Bobo doll experiment that was carried out by Bandura. From the research, the theory concludes that children learn from their environment that includes parents, teachers, family settings, friends and television characters (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). As children pay attention to their environment, they copy what they see and repeat the acts to form their behaviors (Rosenstock, Strecher & Becker, 1988). The children understand such behaviors and take the information they copy as rewarding.


Social learning theory is a theory interested in the way human beings acquire their behaviors and the factors that contribute to their acquisition. The theory is very influential in understanding why people behave the way they do, discouraging bad behaviors and encouraging healthy behaviors. As a result, the theory is effective in helping parents and teachers to shape children into responsible persons.

On the other hand, the theory has a claim that learning does not necessarily influence behavior because it is possible to gain information and learn and at the same time while retaining behavior. In an overview, the theory highlights attention, retention, reproduction and motivation as the primary tenets that play a role in behavior modeling. However, understanding the three concepts of the theory is of great help and in the society, it is used in education and health care.

Description of Application of the theory in Clinical Practice

In clinical practice, the theory of social learning is applied in many ways. For example, in nursing education, nurses use the theory in teaching mothers on how to take care of their children and what to avoid if at all they want to live long and healthy lives. As observed, its application in the field has been very successful. Secondly, addressing psychological problems assists nurses to teach patients how to behave and what to do when faced with certain situations.

Support groups have also used the social learning theory to create a better learning environment that makes patients and other learners in a healthcare setting comfortable. On the other hand, in nursing practice, the theory provides satisfaction for workers and improves their competence to make their organizations grow and become more effective and efficient.


Rosenstock, I. M., Strecher, V. J., & Becker, M. H. (1988). Social learning theory and the health belief model. Health Education & Behavior, 15(2), 175-183.

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StudyKraken. "Middle Range Theories: Social Learning." August 26, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "Middle Range Theories: Social Learning." August 26, 2022.


StudyKraken. (2022) 'Middle Range Theories: Social Learning'. 26 August.

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