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3.4: Social Learning Theory (Sociology)

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    Social Learning Theory regards gender identity and roles as a set of behaviors that are learned from the environment. Environmental influences include parents, peers, images in the media, toys, books, etc. The main way that gender behaviors are learned is through the process of observational learning wherein children observe the people (or images of people) around them behaving in various ways. During these observations of behaviors, they’re internalizing what it means (culturally) to be a female or male in society. They observe these people and mimic their behaviors. As their skills for parroting behavior increase, so does their ability to imitate behavior at times later than when they first observed it. They are also able to observe sanctions assigned to those for acting out unexpected behaviors, and, in an attempt to avoid those same sanctions, will interpret some of those behaviors as being more or less appropriate for females or for males. Reinforcement is the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward. Punishment is the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense. A behavior followed by a reward will likely reoccur, whereas a behavior followed by a punishment will less likely reoccur. Reinforcement can come in many forms: smiles, verbal praise, gifts, etc. And Puishments also come in many forms, such as displeased looks, frowns, verbal sanctions, etc. Children who do gender “appropriately” often receive rewards in the forms of praise and are more likely to act it out again.

    This page titled 3.4: Social Learning Theory (Sociology) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Katie Coleman via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.