The social learning theorists say we are not like mindless robots, responding mechanically to others in our environment. Neither are we like weather vanes. Rather, we think, reason, imagine, plan, expect and interpret, believe, value and compare. When others try to control us, our values and beliefs allow us to resist their control. American psychologists Albert Bandura (1977, 1995, 1997) and Walter Mischel (1995) are the main architects of social learning theory’s contemporary version, which was labeled cognitive social learning theory by Mischel (1973). Bandura believes that we learn by observing what others do.
Through observational learning (also called modeling or imitation), we cognitively represent the behavior of others. For example, a boy might observe his father’s aggressive outbursts and hostile interchanges with people; when observed with his peers, the young boy might display a style of interaction that is highly aggressive, showing the same behavior as his father. This paper looks closely at Bandura’s social learning theory and delves into the many ramifications that his theories branch into.
This paper looks into how Meursault character in The Stranger is an unusual person.Camus describes Meursault, the main character and the narrator of The Stranger, as a distant, detached, and impassive person. Meursault displays impassiveness and an uncaring nature towards the consequences of actions. His inexpressiveness is depicted all throughout the story. He did not cry in his mother’s death. He demonstrates limited feelings for his girlfriend. And the most implicit incident that displays his indifference and uncaring nature is his murder of the Arab, where we do not see remorse.
He becomes a stranger in a sense that he is not connected to people and his own emotions. It seems he does things without any feeling at all. Mersault is unresponsive and this apathy can be looked at protecting him from the pain he should have felt when faced with life’s unpleasant events, such as death and loss.
Mersault is honest although his unconcern shows in his bluntness. He says things, even the negative ones, in a straight manner that could evidently hurt. In another point of view, Mersault’s character is appealing because of his non-judgmental and uncritical disposition, however it may be the result of his indifference to people and events. On the whole, Mersault exhibits an unconventional behavior. And while his behavior seems to be antagonistic or antisocial because of distance it maintains from people and emotions, it does not get in the way of his relationship with people. Mersault is amoral. He cannot or does not make distinctions between bad and good.
Relating this to the social learning theory, an individual learns from another essentially because it saves effort and energy (Bandura, 1977), by not having to undergo actions that lead to outcomes, which others have already experienced and learned from. The usual manner of learning from others is observational learning (Ormond, 1999), also referred to as modeling. Learning takes place when an individual observes and imitates others’ behavior.
It entails four elements, namely, attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation (Bandura, 1977: p. 24-8). Attention is important because individuals cannot learn much by observation unless they perceive and take heed on the significant aspects of the modeled behavior (Delores Isom, 1998). Retention is significant because unless the individual remembers what it has paid attention to, there would be no mental guide for emulating the modeled behavior. Reproduction refers to the physical ability to transduce the mental guide into actual behavior. Motivation provides the impetus for imitating the modeled behavior, thereby demonstrating what one has learned.
Motivation can either be positive in the form of reinforcement, or negative in the form of punishment.The theory explains human behavior as a result of the continuous reciprocal interaction between environmental, behavioral, and cognitive influences. The premise that underlies this conjecture is reciprocal causation (Ormond, 1999), which posits that not only does environment cause behavior, but behavior causes environment as well. Lastly, social learning theory classifies models (of behavior) into two types.
One is the live model, wherein an actual person demonstrates the behavior. The second one is symbolic model, which can either be a person or action in some depicted in some other media, such as TV, videotapes, computer programs, and the ilk (Ormond, 1999).Relating this to Mersault’s behavior, we can say that he is able to stand aback and do all the observations as expounded by Bandura, yet provide no outward emotion or feeling as a reaction to it. Mersault’s unusual behavior makes him known as the monsieur antichrist which is much like defining the reaction of people to his unnatural behavior. Mersault is just basically different from the rest and because he is different and people cannot understand his behavior and beliefs, they call him names.
Monsieur antichrist then becomes the symbolism for the negative things in life, in which people do not want one thing, yet their actions lead to it. Mersault, in the end, realizes that the world is totally indifferent to man, much like his own thinking. With this realization, he finds peace in himself and his development as a character is completed. His lack of religion also signifies his detachment from the society. Religion is imposed by the society and because of his faithless living, Mersault is regarded as an atheist, and the magistrate sees his unusual behavior in the negative light, sees him as a person of no compassion nor pity and so terms him an antichrist. Mersault’s belief towards religion is shown in how he views church as a “crutch [of the people] to avoid living and taking responsibility for lives” (Gillis and Ward). The negative view of Mersault triggers the court’s guilty verdict.Mersault’s detachment from the society brought upon him the label of being an outcast.
Because the people are threatened by his impassiveness, he is sentenced to death by hanging. He is tried, not for his murder of the Arab man but for his impassiveness and emotionless stance against the events that have transpired, especially his lack of reaction of his mother’s death. The prosecution, and the jury themselves, see in Mersault’s character a cold-blooded murderer. They believe that Mersault could really have killed the Arab devoid of remorse and guilt. He does not lie even if he could because of his deep honesty and belief that he did not do anything wrong. His trial then shows that justice serves only those that could conform to the natural behavior of humans. Because he is emotionless, impassive and indifferent to what happened to him, the death of his mother, the murder of the Arab and almost anything else, the jury sees him as unfit to live.
In Mersault’s viewpoint, questions are raised about the reality of God, the meaning of God and the purpose of life. In sum, The Stranger points to how people view unnatural behavior. Bandura’s theories bridges this gap by stating that in order to leverage the processes of natural learning, people must offer answers on an as-needed basis. Instead of making the people conform to a schedule of instruction, we must make the schedule of instruction conform to people. Teachers (society, in the case of Mersault) should take first things first. They must first be concerned with goals, since before they can proceed to later stages learning, students must first acquire goals that interest them.
ReferencesBandura, A. & McDonald F.J. (1963) The influence of social reinforcement and the behavior of models in shaping children’s moral judgments. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 67, 274-281.Bandura, A. (1977).
Social Learning Theory. New York, NY: General Learning Press.The Stranger by Albert Camus. Retrieved Nov.
9, 2006 at: <http://www.bookrags.com/essays/story/2005/2/2/94010/38701>.
The Stranger Character Analysis- Mersault. Retrieved Nov. 9, 2006 at: <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/stranger/>.