Theorists and their Contributions

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura


Best Known For:

Bobo Doll Studies
Observational Learning
Social Learning Theory

After earning his Ph.D., he was offered a position at Stanford University. Bandura accepted the offer (even though it meant resigning from another position he had already accepted) and has continued to work at Stanford to this day. It was during his studies on adolescent aggression that Bandura became increasing interested in vicarious learning, modeling and imitation.

Albert Bandura’s social learning theory stressed the importance of observational learning, imitation and modeling. “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do,” Bandura explained (Bandura, 1977). His theory integrates a continuous interaction between behaviors, cognitions and the environment.

His most famous experiment was the 1961 Bobo doll study. In the experiment, he made a film in which a woman was shown beating up a Bobo doll and shouting aggressive words. The film was then shown to a group of children. Afterwards, the children were allowed to play in a room that held a Bobo doll. The children immediately began to beat the doll, imitating the actions and words of the woman in the film.

The study was significant because it departed from behaviorism’s insistence that all behavior is directed by reinforcement or rewards. The children received no encouragement or incentives to beat up the doll; they were simply imitating the behavior they had observed. Bandura termed this phenomena observational learning and characterized the elements of effective observational learning as attention, retention, reciprocation and motivation.




Lev Vygotsky


Best Known For:

Zone of Proximal Development
Sociocultural Theory
Guided Participation


Lev Vygotsky was a prolific writer, publishing six books on psychology topics over a ten year period. His interests were quite diverse, but often centered on topics of child development and education. He also explored such topics as the psychology of art and language development.

Zone of Proximal Development: According to Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.” Parents and teachers can foster learning by providing educational opportunities that lie within a child’s zone of proximal development.
Sociocultural Theory: Lev Vygostsky also suggested that human development results from a dynamic interaction between individuals and society.2 Through this interaction, children learn gradually and continuously from parent and teachers. This learning, however, can vary from one culture to the next. It is important to note that Vygotsky’s theory emphasizes the dynamic nature of this interaction. Society doesn’t just impact people; people also impact their society.