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Describe and evaluate social learning as an explanation of personality development

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Describe and evaluate social learning as an explanation of personality development (24 marks) Personality development can be described as the collection of a person's behaviours, for example their thoughts, emotions and interactions with others. As such, researchers have often stressed the importance of social interactions and the environment on the development of personality. Bandura's social-cognitive theory would describe the attainment of personality in terms of modelling, reinforcement and direct tuition. Particular emphasis is placed on modelling, whereby a person identifies with a 'model' and imitates their behaviour (and hence their personality traits). This may explain why siblings may have similar personalities, as they will have shared a common environment for a large part of their early lives. Support for modelling as an influence on behaviour comes from Bandura's 'Bobo doll' studies, which found that children imitated the behaviour of an adult acting aggressively towards a doll. ...read more.


Further support is provided by Schunk, who found that American primary school children who were told that their peers had done well on a maths test proceeded to do better on it that those who were not told anything about their peers. Social learning theory as an explanation of personality development has significant implications for the treatment of, for example, habit problems and addiction - if a personality trait can be learnt, social learning theory states that it can be unlearnt; for example, a potential treatment could involve creating a behavioural chart, on which behaviour and disruptions to it are recorded. Then, the cues causing the disruptions to the behaviour can be removed, and the desired behaviour can be reinforced by means of 'self-contracts' (rewards and punishments). The theory can be commended for being able to explain how people may develop different personality traits in different situations as they grow older, for example an adolescent may act very differently in front of their parents that they would in front of their friends. ...read more.


This means that the explanation may not actually be a suitable means of explaining personality development; although the methods of treatment derived from the theory have had relatively high success rates compared with those derived from psychodynamic theory, for example. The theory lies at the 'nurture' side of the nature-nurture debate, and other theories claim that personality may be innate rather than learnt. An example of this is Eysenck's Type Theory, which suggests that personality has its roots in biological development; for example, extroverts have been found to operate on lower levels of cognitive arousal than introverts, and hence need less external stimulation than introverts, hence the more outgoing behaviour patterns. Thomas & Chess similarly believe that we are born with innate characteristic patterns such as temperament, which endure through life and affect our adult personality when combined with experience. Therefore, it may be that social learning theory is an incomplete explanation of personality development; there may be innate factors that, when combined with experience and a person's environment, create a person's personality. Clive Newstead ...read more.

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