Following his most (in)famous experiment (in which children were encouraged to assault an innocent doll), Albert Bandura was able to academically prove to the world that people learn from each other (because using common-sense isn’t always sensible). Now, while most psychologists were often (well, it still happens) so tied to their individual theories, they often failed to consider that may be we learn in more than one way (and that’s partially because we’re wired to always think we’re right).
But Bandura wasn’t content with blowing the academic world’s mind with his pioneering research on social learning and how influential role models can be, he had to go on to blow the world by tying together all of the different ways we learn into one, neat theory; Reciprocal Determinism.
In this theory, Bandura outlined that there were three aspects to our learning that influence each other and the subsequent ways in which we act;
- the person – our individual characteristics and aspects of our personality;
- the environment – the world around us (as in classical conditioning) and the people around us (as in social learning); and
- our behaviour – the positive and negative consequences of our actions (as in operant conditioning).
Bandura said that our personal characteristics can influence the environment and the consequences of our behaviour (for example, if we’re perceived as a lovely person, people will tend to assume everything we do is good and thus respond positively).
He said that the environment can affect our personality and our behaviour (like how our parents respond to our cries as an infant, or how our adult relationships can alter those patterns, or how our friends can make us try harder or stop trying).
And he said that our behaviour can alter our personality and the environment around us (if we act good, people will think we’re good, which’ll make us strive to be good).
Or, if we want to put it all together; let’s say we decide to hang out with a different group of friends. They might be a pretty lively bunch. That might encourage you to be a bit more outgoing. That would make the atmosphere a bit more enjoyable, which would encourage you to keep hanging out with those people. Which would encourage you to continue being outgoing which would liven things up even more which would encourage you to keep hanging out and being outgoing which would keep those happy vibes going which would make you want to keep hanging out and being outgoing… Alright. Take a breath.
But, really, it’s up to you
It seems pretty obvious, but psychology is a relatively new science and it was difficult to tie all of those elements together until we had a good idea of how each individual aspect worked. Hence, Bandura’s model didn’t come into being until the turn of the millenium and is arguably, not the end of the story either.
But what surprises me more is that, despite how obvious it seems now I’ve described it, very few people realise that the way we view the world has so many moving parts and in reality, we each shape our own unique experience. So, no matter what you’ve learned and what influences you, never forget that what makes you is unique to you.
Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to” ― Alan Keightley
Now you’ve heard a theory that’s infinitely useful, why don’t you read about one that’s the complete opposite? Or, speaking of how easily people influence each other, let’s talk about how you can make an excellent first impression. Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and ‘the good life’ at The Dirt Psychology.