Compare and contrast Bandura's Social Learning theory and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Albert Bandura’s theory of behaviorism is entirely based on the palpable and not on the subjective, or mental. Its basic premise is that the world around us, those things that we can see, feel, and experience, are the causative factors that produce our behaviors. This premise distances itself from the idea that internal, cognitive and psychological processes are the primary factor that decides how we behave. This is also known as reciprocal determinism, or the idea that the environment and the individual interact to the point that one causes the other.

After several modifications to the original idea of reciprocal determinism, Bandura added the cognitive element to his hypothesis, becoming known as a pioneer in the cognitive movement. In the end, he established that behaviors are caused by observation; that people copy the behaviors of the others whether they are rewarded for it or not. There are steps to this process:

a) Attention-  Focusing and observing the behavior without being distracted by outside stimuli.

b) Retention- The ability to keep in mind what was observed and then retrieve it from memory.

c) Reproduction- The more you observe the behavior the more likely you are to repeat it exactly as it occurs.

4. Motivation- Something needs to move the individual to commit an action; there is no other way around it. Whether it is the behavior itself, the want to be like the person doing it, or the reward after it, something must be there to initiate everything.

Maslow’s theory is similar in that it has everything to do with the environment. His Hierarchy of Needs contends that there are environmental and psychological factors that must be present throughout development in order to reach our highest potential as humans: self-actualization.  This refers to the ability to know who we really are, what is our role in life, and how we can make a true difference in our environment.  The most updated hierarchy states that the needs are

a) Biological and psychological- such as food, water, sleep, shelter

b) Safety- protection from environment and from other people; stability

c) Love and belonging- affection, friends, intimacy, family

d) Esteem needs- prestige, responsibility, independence, self-esteem

e) Cognitive needs- studies, knowledge

f) Aesthetic needs- Art appreciation in balance, beauty

g) Self-Actualization- Personal potential, self-fulfillment.

h) Transcendence needs- Inspire others to achieve self-actualization

Both theories are alike in their mention of elements such as motivation, observational learning, and socialization as key for the further development of the individual. Therefore, they do concede the importance of environmental influences in the behavior and personality of people.

The Hierarchy of Needs, however, makes more emphasis on the transcendental and the sublime as the ultimate goal of the individual, thus conceding more importance to the internal and psychological processes that Bandura does not necessarily expand upon.