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social learning

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The processes by which social influences alter people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. The earliest social learning theories, put forward in 1950 by the US psychologists John Dollard (1900–80) and Neal E(lgar) Miller (1909–2002) and in 1954 by the US psychologist Julian B(ernard) Rotter (born 1916) were simple operant conditioning theories based on reinforcement (1); more recent versions assign a major role to cognitive processes. In 1969 the Canadian-born US psychologist Albert Bandura (born 1925) argued that imitation and modelling sometimes occur without reinforcement, through simple observational learning, as in an experiment by Bandura and two colleagues in 1961 in which children who observed the actions of an aggressive adult towards an inflatable five-foot BoBo doll tended later, after they were subjected to mild frustration, to imitate the hostile behaviour they had observed. See also locus of control, mirror neuron.

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