Social learning theory and Social skills/ discourse development

Benefits of Positive Social Skills

Social skills help people:

  1. Interact appropriately in a social setting
  2. Have better relationships with others
  3. Improve problem solving skills
  4. Improve communication
  5. Improve understanding of personal feelings and others' feelings
  6. Increase assertiveness
  7. Cause less aggressive behavior
  8. Increase ability to deal with stress
  9. Are better able to survive
  10. Increased self-esteem

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory overview

Pro social skills:
(Goldstein, Spafkin, Gershaw and Klein 1983)

Beginning - group 1

  1. Listening
  2. Starting a converstation
  3. Having a conversation
  4. Asking a question
  5. Saying thanks
  6. Introducing yourself
  7. Introducing other people
  8. Giving a compliment

Advanced - group 2

  1. Asking for help
  2. Joining in
  3. Giving instructions
  4. Following instruction
  5. Apologizing
  6. Convincing others

Managing feelings - group 3

  1. Knowing your feelings
  2. Expressing your feelings
  3. Understanding the feelings of others
  4. Dealing with someone else's anger
  5. Expressing affection
  6. Dealing with fear
  7. Rewarding yourself

Alternatives to aggression - group 4

  1. Asking permission
  2. Sharing something
  3. Helping others
  4. Negotiation
  5. Using self-control
  6. Standing up for your rights
  7. Responding to teasing
  8. Avoiding trouble with others
  9. Keeping out of fights

Dealing with stress - group 5

  1. Making a complaing
  2. Answering a complaint
  3. Sportsmanship after a game
  4. Dealing with embarrassment
  5. Dealing with being left out
  6. Standing up for a friend
  7. Responding to persuasion
  8. Responding to failure
  9. Dealing with contradictory messages
  10. Dealing with an accusation
  11. Getting ready for a difficult conversation
  12. Dealing with group pressure

Planning - group 6

  1. Deciding on something to do
  2. Deciding what caused a problem
  3. Setting a goal
  4. Deciding on your abilities
  5. Gathering information
  6. Arranging problems by importance
  7. Making a decision
  8. Concentrating on a task

Bandura and Vygotsky describe human learning as a social event of observing, modeling and interacting with others. Mirror neurons provide a powerful basis for humans to imitate and learn behaviors from others even with out reward or punishment.

If a person sticks out their tongue while a baby watches, the baby will copy them and stick out her tongue.

Babies will pick up toys when they are dropped. They will retrieve tools or other objects when they know another person needs or wants one. Think of the amount of communication required to be able to do this. Need to follow another person's eyes, (dogs can do this too), anticipate, two and 3 steps beyond present. Socialization helps evolve bigger brains.

Learning is also affected by how a person relates to others. Relating best to others who are similar to their personal view of them self. As to each person's cultural identity, racial identity, sexual identity, and the various roles each of us chooses. We look to other people as models and the greater the similarity between us and the other person and the more prestigious that person is, the greater the impact will be. This desire to be like another person correlates to how positive and useful (reinforcing) our mental model of the person's actions.

However, these mental images are limited by how well a person can understand and apply the necessary behaviors successfully for sufficient motivation to attain mastery oriented behaviors.

To learn by watching others perform tasks (playing, creating, singing, dancing, helping others, talking, sports, dating,.. ) and interacting with people a person must focus on the hows and whys of what a person does.

To better insure this happening, thinking aloud to enhance self talk can be used. Examples:

This can increase the likelihood of success. Additionally, if several people listen and watch each other practice, analyze their performance, compare their ideas with those of an expert; success is more likely. Examples:

Motivation for doing and sustaining learning to achieve mastery will depend on how difficult or easy a task is, the likelihood of success and failure, and how others will respond and feel as a result.

It should also be noted that witnessing behaviors will also cause a person to NOT repeat it or NOT want to try the behavior. It can also encourage a deviant behavior - dare, double dare...


It seems people learn four general things from watching other people:

  1. Behaviors
  2. Consequences
  3. Expectations
  4. Self-talk or metacognition

It is also apparent some variables necessary to learn from social interactions include:

  1. Focus or attention on what is being learned
  2. Able to remember and apply what is learned when an appropriate situation arises
  3. Able to do what is learned
  4. Motivated to remember and apply it.

Various research studies related to socialization


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes &