Social Learning Theory of Gender by Bandura

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), MaxScience, Sharingknowledge

The Social Learning Theory was proposed by Bandura as a way of explaining how children acquire their gender identity based on the influence of other people (particularly their parents).

Stages of Learning

There are four stages that a child goes through when develop gender behaviour. These are:

  1. 1
    This is merely where the behaviour is noticed and observed.
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  2. 2
    This is when the behaviour is memorized and committed to memory.
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  3. 3
    The behaviour is performed or 'reproduced' based on Imitating what they see around them.
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  4. 4
    Motivation.Their behaviour is based on the desired consequences or what will be gained by the behaviour, either immediately or in the near future
    This can be illustrated by the example of boys playing football (soccer for North Americans). A boy may see his friends playing the game (attention) and then memorize this. Later, at school, he joins in a game (imitation) and a teacher comments on how good he is (motivation).
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There are also some factors that will affect the chance of behaviour being modelled i.e. things that make someone more likely to copy what someone else is doing. The appropriateness of the behaviour. For example, Bandura (1961) found that males would imitate aggressiveness from another male, but not copy the behaviour if a female did it. In short, someone is more likely to imitate a behaviour they think they should perform. Also, there is relevance of the model to yourself. So a girl will be more likely to model someone with similar characteristics to her, like another female. And the same would be true for males.

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Studies and Research

The following is a pair of studies that appear to show that gender behaviour is learned socially. Both are pretty memorable so you won't have much difficulty recalling them in an exam situation.

Study Janis and Janis (1976) Bandura (1965)
Aim Observe differences in book carrying between males and females. Investigate how negative behaviours are imitated.
Method They identified different book carrying styles and observed 2,626 people from Kindergarten to adults. Boys and girls aged 3-6 watched a TV clip where other children abused a toy called 'Bobo'. At the end, an adult made a positive, negative or no comment (reinforcement). The children were then put in a room with the same toy and observed.
Results Females were more likely to hold their books in type A positions whereas men carried their books in type B positions. The boys were nearly twice as likely to imitate the behaviour than girls, and girls were also far more influenced by the negative comment.
Conclusion Differences in behaviour in book carrying come down to social modelling. Children learn by observation and imitation.
Evaluation This was a good experiment because they used a diverse sample of people from different locations. In analyzing the data, it is possible that the reasons for the differences might have more to do with biology than social conditioning. Males tend to have bigger hands, which may be why they carry their books differently from females. experimental method], and therefore has poor ecological validity (not that realistic). and there was no follow-up regarding the children's behaviour to investigate whether or not the behaviour continued.. Also, the previous character of the children was not taken into consideration.

Evaluation and Social Cognitive Theory
  • The theory doesn't take into account how children of different ages will understand and interpret behaviour. For example, younger may think about a meal situations - how people eat, while older children learn about how the people interact.
  • The Social Learning Theory only looks at specific behaviours, and doesn't look at general learning.
  • And the final point is that the theory doesn't look at how the child itself feels about the particular behaviour (if you don't feel happy with it will it be copied?). And it's for this reason that Bandura later modified this theory to the Social Cognitive Theory.

A piece of research by Bandura and Bussey asked 3 & 4 year olds to explain how they felt about playing with particular toys. By 4, boys felt 'great' playing with trucks and robots and 'bad' playing with dolls. The reverse was true for girls. By this, they concluded that children learn to become uncomfortable with particular behaviours.

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Questions and Answers

What is the social learning perspective on gender differences?

Can you please explain to me the theories we have on gender differences. I need other theories that best explains gender differences

'Sociologists' attribute differences between genders to socialization or the process of transferring values, behaviors and beliefs. Groups people join or categories. (Cisgender and Transgender) is the process of socializing males, females and intersex children to values, behaviors, and beliefs.

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Biological Determinism being a theory that psychological, social and behavioral traits were a result of metabolic state meaning women being (anabolic) men being (katabolic). These traits were used as an argument to omit women from political and social issues.

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There have been numerous theories on gender differences but one must hold the notion that these are only theories and nothing more. One of the most notable was a study conducted by [Maccoby and Jacklin] in 1974.

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Referencing this Article

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APA (American Psychological Association)
Social Learning Theory of Gender by Bandura. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Feb 27, 2024, from

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Chicago / Turabian "Social Learning Theory of Gender by Bandura." Accessed Feb 27, 2024.

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Article Info

Categories : Gender

Recent edits by: MaxScience, Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

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