An important idea in social learning theory is that humans pick up a lot of their behavior from observing other people. Not only do individuals observe how others behave but they will start to copy such behaviors if they feel it will be beneficial to do so. This type of modeling allows the individual to pick up important skills so that they can cope better in the world.
The human ability to model behavior is crucial for survival, but it can also lead to problems when the individual models inappropriate actions. It is suggested that therapy which focuses on modeling appropriate behaviors might be beneficial for those with behavioral problems such as addiction.
The theory of social learning is most associated with the psychologist Albert Bandura. It was his goal to discover how people learn. He was not convinced that people just do this from oral instruction and the process of trial and error. Bandura concluded that this learning occurs by observing how other people act and the consequences of these actions. If another individual receives a reward for a certain action, this will encourage an observer to model the behavior. It is Bandura’s contention that observing an action can have as much impact as directly experiencing it.
The ability of people to model behavior is highly advantageous. It means that the individual does not have to put themselves at risk in order to learn something. For instance, if they can observe the negative impact of abusing drugs, it can save a lot of pain. It means that the individual can learn about drugs without having to take them.
It is said that 4 conditions are required for effective modeling to take place:
* There needs to be attention to the behavior. There will always be many things pulling at the individual’s attention, but for modeling to occur, there needs to be focus on what is happening. People will differ in their ability to pay attention.
* The individual needs to remember the behavior they have seen. If the action didn’t have much of an impact, then it will be less likely to be retained in memory.
* The person will need to have the ability to reproduce the action they have observed. If it is something way beyond their skill set, then they will be unable to reproduce it.
* There must be the motivation to reproduce the behavior. If the individual sees that the performance of this action led to a desirable reward, it could provide the necessary motivation.
It is argued that individuals become addicted to alcohol or drugs because of modeling. If a person observes that other people are getting enjoyment from these activities, it can make them appealing. Certainly, behavior modeling does play a part in why people fall into substance abuse. Perhaps genetics makes some people more prone to this type of modeling.
An understanding of social learning theory is beneficial for those who wish to prevent or treat addiction. The person who is at risk of modeling negative behavior can be educated about the dangers. This already happens in schools where the price of addiction will be made clear. Those who are already involved in substance abuse can benefit from the use of modeling of appropriate behaviors as part of their rehab.
Modeling is an important element of learning. and this is why there is a lot of interest in controlling how it occurs. Many parents are eager to use modeling of appropriate behaviors as a mechanism to help their kids develop successfully. There is also a lot of interest in using this knowledge to help adults. A good example of this is the use of good role models when treating addiction. If the addict can see how other people benefit from staying free of alcohol and drugs, it can motivate them to do the same.
Self-efficacy is the belief an individual will have the ability to achieve a goal. If something appears beyond their ability, then this individual will have low self-efficacy. This lack of belief will have a detrimental impact on motivation and make achieving the task almost impossible.
There are a number of ways to increase self-efficacy and one solution is modeling. If the individual can observe their peers accomplishing goals, it can motivate them to do the same. It creates the attitude of, well if they can do it, so can I. This ability to increase self-efficacy through modeling is hugely beneficial for treatments such as addiction rehab. The bottom line is that it is important to be around people who behave in ways which align with what the client wants out of sobriety, and that these same people are achieving their goals and leading lives free from addiction.
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