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Strengths and Weaknesses of the Learning Perspective

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Our behaviour is determined by outside factors; therefore it is not free will. Allows the study of nurturing. For example, Operation Head start was an enrichment programme in the US. It came about as a result of a political movement to help disadvantaged children. For example, those who lacked some of the early benefits, such as health and intellectual stimulation were disadvantaged even before they began school. Small gains in IQ were spotted against the control group, however these were short lived and the financial costs exceeded over 150 million dollars. Use of scientific methods e.g. experiments- Controlled conditions and focuses on observable and objective behaviour. It can also lead to cause relationships in the variables being looked at. However, it is not the real world conditions. Animals cannot be generalized to humans. Another Strength is…Cultural differences This can provide us with an explanation on how new behaviour is acquired. It also explains why some people show aggression and others don’t.

This supports the idea that behaviour is a result of nurture rather than nature. Mead (’35) looked at cross-cultural studies, where there is an expectancy to find variations in levels of aggression due to the different practices in the different cultures. Margaret mead looked at the following three tribes in New Guinea. The Mundugumor ‘ found to have been cannibals who killed any outsiders of their tribe. The Arapesh ‘ both the men and women were non-aggressive in their treatment towards others. The Tchambuli ‘ the men were found to be dulgent while the women were aggressive. However, the overall conclusion its that some aspects are biologically determined. This is because men were always relatively more aggressive than the women. This is due to biological factors, hormones like testosterone, which are known to affect behaviour such as aggression. Weaknesses: Reductionist: Reduces any complex human behaviours down into simple components such as environmental factors and not taking into account other things like biological factors.

An example of this is the case study of Bruce and Brenda (Bruce and Brenda-tried to raise boy as girl ignoring the biological factors, and overriding it with environmental factors. Nurturing it as a girl, but encouraging dressing as girl, and playing with dolls.) However, It recognizes cognitive elements such as self-efficacy, which is a sense of one’s own effectiveness, which influences what they ultimately achieve. Your sense of self-efficacy is an important trait to have which derives from past experiences. Your own successes and failures alter you future experiences of success. You could however also learn indirectly by observing others’ successes and failures and apply this to your own self-expectations. For example, if you see someone has revised hard for a test and achieved a high grade, you will copy this action to achieve the same success. The social learning theory also recognizes, reciprocal determinism.

Social learning suggests that current behaviour is a product of past reinforcement. As an individual acts, this changes their environment, thus it affects their behaviour. Ethical issues involved- A situation that may compromise someone’s psychological health. Testing on animals ‘ wrong…ethical issues etc… And can’t generalize to humans… Bandura et al’s Bobo Doll- (1961) Carried out a classic study on observational learning and demonstrating the fact that aggression can be learned via social interactions. Young children were made to watch as an adult behaved aggressively towards a Bobo doll. The adult would punch and hit the doll with a hammer. After the children were made to walk to another room where there were some toys, including a hammer and a Bobo doll. The children were made to walk some distance between rooms; this was done to create a sense of frustration.

Once in the room, they were watched through a one-way mirror and rated on their aggression. The children who had watched the model behaving aggressively were more violent and imitated some of the behaviours they had observed, compared to those who had seen no model. In conclusion, Bandura exaggerated the extent to which children imitate the behaviour of models. Children are more likely to imitate the aggressive behaviour towards a doll, but they are much less likely to imitate the behaviour towards another child. Bandura also failed to distinguish the difference between real aggressions and just play fighting.

Little Albert ‘ They made a young boy develop a fear of a white rat, by associating it with a horrible noise. This then later made the boy develop fear to other similar objects, such as Santa clauses beard. This experiment, affected the boy’s psychological health long term. Determinism- Ignores biological and cognitive inputs. Again Operation head start brought a point that the controls in these programmes have been criticized on methodological grounds, as in Operation head start the allocation to groups, either control or experimental was not strictly random.

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