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Social Learning Theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

1533 words (6 pages) Essay in Psychology

27/07/17 Psychology Reference this

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This essay will summarise and review two psychological theories. I will discuss Bandura’s social learning theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I will then apply Banduras social learning theory to a generic patient in my care explaining why the theory is helpful, concluded on why these theories are useful for practicing within health care.


Bandura is a behaviourist, he believes that an individual’s development and behaviour is a result of social interactions with others. He states that social interaction starts when a baby is born but also continues throughout life. It involves socialisation where a person is taught how to abide by the norms and values of the society they live in, acting in a way that is deemed acceptable. Banduras social learning theory highlight three ways in which socialisation occurs (Miller, p185).

The first way is through imitation and identification, during a child’s early years “they will observe the behaviour of others and copy or imitate it” (Miller, p185). Later in life as the individual has been influence with behaviours around them through their childhood, they would then become the identity of the behaviours in adulthood.

Punishment and rewards are another way in which a child learns how to behave. Behaviours will either be punished or rewarded. This teaches a child what behaviours are suitable and acceptable to the culture they live in. Praising a child for good behaviours will reinforce the acceptable behaviours whereas punishment reinforces behaviours not acceptable, for instance smacking a child for bad behaviours reinforces the behaviours the displayed are not acceptable. A child may still carry out punishable behaviours in the absence of the punisher. It also teaches that another person can control behaviours, so the person being punished may in future use the same approach to control the behaviours of others (Miller, p185).

Another part of socialisation is the social expectations in the society a person lives in. Different cultures determine the appropriate types of behaviours that should be displayed from an individual. As cultures vary, behaviours deemed appropriate in one culture may not be in another’s culture. So again, the society we live in determines how we would behave (Miller, p185).

I believe this theory has several strengths but also has its weaknesses. This theory is easy to understand and allows me to understand how behaviours are learned. On the other hand, this theory doesn’t consider what one person may see as discipline, another may see as a reward. (Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, ND)


Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. His theory is based on motivational needs, he believes all humans have a range of needs and are constantly striving to fulfil those needs. Maslow believes a person’s needs are dealt with as a hierarchy, and that a need below must be partially fulfilled before the next stage of needs can be satisfied. The hierarchy consists of 5 levels, spilt into deficiency and growth needs (Miller, p189). According to Maslow, deficiency needs must be met to be able to strive towards growth needs. The idea is that a person will not strive or think about growth needs before lower needs are satisfied(, ND). The hierarchy of needs is built up on a foundation of basic needs a person requires to sustain life. This is the basic survival needs including food, water, and oxygen. These needs must be fulfilled before a person can move up the hierarchy to fulfil the next level of needs (Miller, p189).

The next stage of needs are safety needs, a person needs to feel safe and secure, having no threats of harm. Once a person’s safety needs have been met higher needs become more important. After this social needs are on the next level on the hierarchy, being able to communicate with others, having a relationship with them for instance, family and friends, and being able to interact with others. Satisfying this needs by communication and interacting will allow a person to fulfil this bringing to our next stage of needs. On the next stage of needs a person will seek esteem needs, to feel good about themselves, feeling important for instance receiving attention or self-respect. Fulfilling this move us to the final stage of self-actualisation. Individuals who reach this stage know who they are and feel comfortable with themselves at this point. However, Maslow states that a person will not remain at the top of the hierarchy, as there is always something else to strive towards (Miller, p189).

To fulfil the need of self-actualisation, Maslow said the fulfilment originates from inside the individual, whereas lower order needs come from external sources and support. He stated that some people will fail to reach their full potential due to circumstances they find themselves in such as poverty, as all their time and energy are being spent meeting their basic needs. He also states that people will not remain at the top of the hierarchy as there is always something else to strive for in life (Miller, p189).

I believe this theory has several strengths but also has its weaknesses. The advantage is that the theory motivates individuals to move from basic needs to higher needs showing growth. On the other hand the theory does explain that some individuals would ignore lesser needs to search for higher ones, for example, if a person rents is due to be paid but they decide to go on holiday instead. (eHow UK, ND).

Application of Bandura to a patient in my care

A patient was admitted to my ward after having fall due to excess alcohol, as I must comply with the data protection act 1998 (,1998), my patient will remain anonymous. Looking through her care plan, it was noted that she is regularly admitted to the ward due to several issues relating to her alcohol misuse. The patient has been a heavy drinker for many years and has previously made staff aware that her parents were also heavy drinkers and liked to gamble on the horses and slot machines. She stated growing up her parents were gamblers and allowed her to choose horses to bet on. Her parents would place the bet for her as she was under the age limit at that point, at this point her parents also allowed her to binge drink with them at weekends. It became a habit that her relationship with her parents were based upon drinking heavily and gambling and reinforced her relationship with them. After leaving home and gaining her own flat she was a regular attender in her local pub and liked to gamble in the bookies. The behaviours she is displaying is a prime example of how bandura explain his social learning theory. A child’s earliest years is when they observe their parents and will copy or imitate this, leading them to become the identity in adult life. It could be said that as she grew up seeing her parents heavily drinking and gambling, she has been influences to lead the same life as her parents, having no hope to fulfil a better life as this was all she had been taught growing up (Miller, p185).


I feel having a knowledge of psychological theories are vitally important in patient care, through assessment and planning.  Being able to apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to a patient in my care would allow me to assess their immediate needs. This would allow me to understand where the patient currently stand within the hierarchy and enable me to help fulfil their needs. This would allow me to plan their care more effectively to help them fulfil their needs.

Applying Banduras theory would allow me to understand why a patient is behaving the way they are, allowing me to gain understanding that the patients upbringing has influence her personality traits in her adult life. For instance, if a patient were to misbehave and I were to give them special treatment, their behaviours would be reinforced which may worsen the behaviours. These examples would allow me to understand the patient and enable me to plan the best possible care for the patient.


Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. (ND). Strengths & Weaknesses. [online] Available at:–weaknesses.html [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017].

eHow UK. (ND). Pros and cons of the motivational theories | eHow UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]. (1998) Data Protection Act 1998. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017].

Miller, Janet. Care In Practice For Cfe Higher. Hodder Education Group, 2015. Print. (ND). Maslows hierarchy of needs | Time for change. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017].

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