The Differences Between
Social and Nonsocial Learning
Learning can be social or nonsocial. Consider the example of a child learning about bees. If is child is exploring and playing with no one else around, the child may see a bee and touch it (out of curiosity). If the child is stung by the bee, the child learns that touching bees is associated with pain. This is nonsocial learning, since no one else was around.
In contrast, a child may benefit from social learning about bees. If the child is with mom, dad or anyone else, the child's inquisitive approach to a bee may lead to some kind of social intervention. Maybe Aunt Emy sees the child reaching for a bee and simply points the child in another direction, saying "Look at that pretty butterfly." Maybe Uncle Ed would say, "Donít touch the bee, because it can hurt you and make you cry." Maybe Mom would have said, "Honey, stay away from bees because they sting." There are all sorts of ways that people can interact with a child to help the child learn to avoid ever being stung. Any and all of these social interventions allow the child to benefit from social learning, though some of these social interventions may be more educational and useful than others. (Which of the interventions by Aunt Emy, Uncle Ed or Mom would be most helpful to a young child? Answer at the bottom of the page.)
All of us can learn about bees -- or anything else -- through nonsocial and social processes. Both are natural and normal ways of learning. Socialization is based more on social learning than nonsocial learning, but the two intertwine closely in everyday life. An emphasis on social learning experience is not to deny the importance of nonsocial learning experiences. Behavior Principles in Everyday Life is designed to explain both social learning experience and nonsocial learning experience, as they occur naturally in everyday life.[Answer: Uncle Ed gave the most useful advice when he said, "Donít touch the bee, because it can hurt you and make you cry." This clearly tells the child what behavior to do (or not to do) and it communicates the expected consequences of the behavior in words that are meaningful to the child.]
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