Akers Social Learning Theory Essay

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Introduction Akers social learning theory is also known as differential association- reinforcement theory. It has its roots in Sutherland’s differential association theory and the behavioral psychology of Skinner and Bandura. Akers (in Brown et al 2001:312) argues that both law-abiding behaviour and criminal behaviour can be explained by means of his social learning theory. Key elements in terms of behaviour: Akers identified four key elements which form part of the complex learning process that influences human behaviour: - differential association - definitions - differential reinforcement - imitation Differential Association This component in Aker’s theory is of primary importance. According to Aker, the individuals with whom one decides to differentially associate and interact play an integral part in providing the social context wherein social learning takes place. A person’s direct interaction with others who engage in criminal or deviant behaviour and the exposure to the norms, values and attitudes supportive of these behaviours affects the decisions of whether a person decides to participate in a particular behaviour. According to the theory, the association that occur early (priority) lasts longer or occupy a disproportionate amount of one’s time (duration); happen the most frequently; and involve the intimate, closest, or most important partners/peer groups (intensity) will likely exert the greatest effect on an individual’s decision to participate in either conforming or nonconforming behaviour. Taking these elements into consideration, the theory proposes that individuals are exposed to pro-criminal and prosocial norms, values, and definitions as well as patterns of reinforcement supportive of criminal or prosocial behaviour. The more an individual differentially associated and exposed to deviant behaviour and

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