Empathy And Social Learning Essay

2130 words - 9 pages

Running Head: EMPATHY AND SOCIAL LEARNING

Developing Empathy: Nurturing Through Social Learning

Abstract

This paper explores the Social Learning Theory and how prosocial behavior, specifically empathy, is cultured through observation, modeling and imitation. Empathy is defined through a review of Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment, Jeremy Sloan’s article on developing empathy and the impact it has on animals in our world, and an assessment of empathy in future criminal justice professionals. All provide evidence and data to support the finding that adults have lasting influence on children and how ones behavior is formed. Empathy is a vital trait and it’s a primary requisite for ...view middle of the document...

Bandura posited the idea of behavior modeling with his Bobo doll experiment, which he used to support the hypothesis that individuals are not born with innate violent tendencies. Exploring Social Learning theories uncovers the impact of modeling, observation and how nurturing experiences shape our behavior, specifically empathy.
Social Learning Defined
Rotter followed in the footsteps of behaviorist theories of B.F. Skinner, John Watson and Pavlov, but he explored the idea that what people will learn from experiences will be dependent on personality, expectation of compensation or consequence, and internal and external orientation (American Psychologist, 1989). Behaviorism explored learning by way of conditioning, while overlooking the importance of cognition, emotion, and human reasoning or motivation. Rotter acknowledged the significance of human self-reflection, or the way people internally reward or punish themselves.
Bandura’s contribution to the concept of Social Learning Theory is founded on the basics of Rotter’s philosophies and other traditional learning theories; however, Bandura focused on the essentials of observation and imitation. He believed people acquire knowledge and abilities by witnessing and following the actions of others, but observing behavior does not always mean there will be a change in behavior. Intrinsic forces come into play to provide reinforcement and reward, fostering development. Internal cognitions, as well as past accomplishments or failures, influence whether or not an observed action will lead to imitation or behavior modification.
The Bobo Doll Experiment used a blow up doll, a panel of adult participants who were instructed to inflict aggressive acts on the doll, and a selection of children to observe such acts. Some children were selected to watch aggressive human or cartoon characters on television, too. After the child observed the aggression, he or she was left in the room with the doll. Bandura and his team monitored the child’s behavior towards the doll. The experiment showed children frequently imitated the words and actions they witness an adult expressing, but it’s worthy to note more children mimicked the aggression viewed on the cartoon (Bandura, 1963).
Cultivating Empathy
What is empathy? How does development take place through social interactions? Empathy may be defined as a feeling or action expressed when a person understands and is responsive to the feelings or situations of another being (Hart, 1999). Though Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment explored aggression and whether or not observation leads to imitation, he used his findings to support the positives of ‘nurturance’ (Bandura, 1963). Adults may likewise foster constructive or beneficial behavior, such as empathy, through modeling and positive reinforcement. It’s valid to also conclude individuals carry predispositions that contribute to the expression of particular behaviors.
Bandura’s research validates the...

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