Blute Blog

Blute's blog about evolutionary theory: biological, sociocultural and gene-culture.

Archive for September 2021

Albert Bandura Deceased

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John Simpson kindly drew my attention to the fact that Albert Bandura, a professor at Stanford University, died this summer. He was the psychologist who established social learning theory with his famous Bobo doll experiment. Children who observed models verbally and physically abusing Bobo dolls were more likely than those not so exposed to abuse them in the future.

The existence of social learning by observation is important because its existence necessarily implies the existence of a second cultural inheritance system, and hence a second evolutionary system in the human species beyond the gene-based biological. I wrote about Bandura’s role in this in my book in 2010.

There are two interesting historical footnotes to all of this. First, earlier in the twentieth century, Edward L. Thorndike formulated his famous “law of effect” in an attempt to deny the existence of social learning. Thorndike’s work was developed by Skinner an others into a large body of verified knowledge about individual learning by reinforcement and punishment. However, as Bandura showed, that did not mean that social learning by observation (and ultimately by linguistic instruction) does not exist. Secondly, earlier among nineteenth-century sociologists, Gabriel Tarde argued that the “inter-metal”, specifically imitation, is the unique subject matter of sociology, distinct from the “intra-mental” which is that of psychology.

Bandura and his work were widely celebrated. In 2002, a survey found that he was the next most cited psychologist after Skinner, Freud and Piaget. He was a Canadian by birth and in 2014 was made an officer of the Order of Canada and in 2016 was awarded the National Medal of Science by Barack Obama.

Written by Marion Blute

September 20, 2021 at 10:30 am