Bandura's Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura placed his emphasis on observational learning as a very powerful source of development. Bandura’s social learning theory explains human behaviour in terms of a constant shared interaction between cognitive, social, emotional and environmental influences. Bandura recognised a strong link between the behaviour an infant or child saw and the way they acted. Furthermore, he saw this as a way of learning, currently known as observational learning (Berk, 2007). In keeping with the framework of this theory, it is apparent that as children mature, they begin to select for themselves what they do and don't imitate from their surroundings.

Although this theory can clearly not be applied to all challenges presented in a child’s life, it can provide reasoning to the development of poor body image in young adults. As children are surrounded by the individual perils with body image felt by family members or peers', they too can begin to associate with such feelings. By witnessing the way others viciously degrade themselves, it can develop into a habit or routine for the children as well. In stating this however, such habits can extend or form beyond childhood and be formed much later on. This is not uncommon in many young women who develop poor body image as a direct result of their own mother's insecurities and body woes.

In our society today the media has such a huge influence on our lives and development. Who and what we are surrounded by influences our self-conceptions and today the media takes a huge part in our lives. Through such means as television, magazines and newspapers the influence of the media is ever surrounding. Sometimes these influences can be positive but in many cases the results have an adverse affect.

The media and its unrealistic portrayal of people have more of an impact on our lives than the observation of those in our immediate environment. According to Bandura's "the nature of models" theory people are more likely to form their behaviour after the actions of those they consider to be prestigious rather than after the actions of those they do not have high regard for (Thomas, 1985). Bandura's theory also states "Models who receive rewards, such as money, fame, high socio-economic status, are more often copied than ones who do not" (Thomas, 1985, p.406). This explains why the media's representation of celebrities has such a large influence on our own body image, and why we strive to become like them through any means possible.

katemoss.jpg victoria.jpgIn the media we are bombarded with images of young women with tiny waists, long legs and perfect skin; all things that every self-conscious woman would love to have. In reality these expectations of beauty are unreasonable and more importantly, improbable. Despite these realities, the influence of the media is still huge on our generation. What we see in the media is what we very commonly base our ideal person on. The ideal person is who we consider to be the perfect person (Berk, 2007). Such images as those portrayed in most fashion magazines and television shows make it difficult for women to accept who they are. Throughout life we aspire to be our ideal person, and when this ideal person is modelled on such famous figures as Kate Moss or Victoria Beckham, the effects on a person's body image can be detrimental to both their mental and physical health.

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