Does Social Learning theory explain racism?



Bandura’s social learning theory has the potential for weakness. One weakness is that the social learning theory rejects one’s ability to choose how to behave. If humans learn nearly everything by observation, like Funder (2019) mentions, then there is not a concept of self. In my second weakness, Bandura identified that a single self runs the show underneath the superficial self (Funder, 2019). If this is true, then where did the single subconscious “self” learn how to behave. The theory cannot properly explain the subconscious “self” without discrediting the social learning theory. Pertaining to racism, there is either an subconscious "self" that is displeased with other races. Other, you are choosing to stick to learned belief.



As Funder (2019) explains, locus of control states that this concept centered on becoming more aware of how your actions and how they influence outcomes. With this definition, the theory can explain personality as an emulated behavior through observation of others. Basically, you learn your personality from someone else. Norman and Ford (2015) mention that adolescents with favorable attitudes towards substance use and parents who condone it uses substances. They may have learned to find substance abuse favorable through observational. However, that does not explain how their personality finds substance abuse to be favorable. Racism that is either condone or overlooked by parents can lead to a child that is favorable of racism to find comfortability. We live in a society where it is no longer socially acceptable to be racist. At least, that is what society wants you to think.


Jean-Paul Sartre would have pointed out that choosing not to choose is a choice (Funder, 2019). Observational learning has shaped our personality from the mold that was already present. Learning requires comprehension. Kohler’s Clever Chimps experiment shows that the chimps gained insight from learning that their behavior was rewarded with a treat. If they were punished, they probably would have developed a phobia of bananas. If racist children were punished for their behavior, they would have been afraid to behave that way. Social learning theory can explain how racist belief is enhanced. It can teach us that through observation many individuals learn hate, just like we learn that we are white, black, or brown.


If you strip a man of their identity, they belong to no one—that how slavery was most effective. The truth is this: We accept what we are told we are. The reality is you are just as much a victim of the systematic racism as I am. The benefit whites have is what side of the system they have the privilege to live on. I hope I haven't offended you with my truth.


Funder, D.C. (2019) The Personality Puzzle (8th). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company


Norman, L. B., & Ford, J. A. (2015). Adolescent ecstasy use: A test of social bonds and social learning theory. Deviant Behavior, 36(7), 527–538. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1080/01639625.2014.944072

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