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Social Learning Theory Application on Bullying Phenomenon


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Journal of International Business Research and Marketing

Volume 6, Issue 6, September 2021, pages 7-12

Social Learning Theory Application on Bullying Phenomenon

DOI: 10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.66.3001
URL: https://doi.org/10.18775/10.18775/jibrm.1849-8558.2015.66.3001 

Sylvia Joseph  

Misr International University, Egypt

Abstract: This paper aims to examine the social learning theory utilization in countering the bullying phenomenon in Egypt. The paper investigates the consequences of bullying on mental and emotional health of the bullied person. The purpose of this research is to shed light on the bullying incidents happening in Egypt and its relationship with the social learning theory.

Keywords: Media theories, Social learning, Bullying phenomena.

Social Learning Theory Application on Bullying Phenomenon

1. Introduction

The notion of social learning theory that was first introduced by Albert Bandura in 1971, is that people acquire aggressive tone, so according to this opinion, belligerence is a result of learning. Based on this theory, people can determine invasion in two ways: on one hand, personalities can start to try out aggressive behavior themselves. If they were compensated for it then there is a good prospect, they will do it repeatedly. On the opposite hand, if they were not remunerated for it, they sway not to do it again. Furthermore, people may see others make offensive behavior and emulate them; consequently, they discover that aggressiveness is sufficient if their behavior points to something assertive.

Besides, if the aggressive behavior drives them to what they aspire, therefore they will assume assertive behavior. The aforementioned explains the Bobo Doll experiment that were performed on three groups of young children aged from 3 to 6 years old and was split into three groups: the quiet group, the aggressive group and the control group all supporting the same experiment with different levels of imitation to the offensive process through verbal and nonverbal actions. (Dr. Saul McLeod, 2014). Another study stated that people may learn aggressive behavior from parents or rivals, yet, they can learn the equivalent from the media or video games. (Alshobramy, 2019).

Moving on with the most crucial features in social learning theory is the process the children stock what they acquired about aggression in their consciousness, following on, to control their behaviors and get aside from an obstacle or struggle they were endangered too. In other contents, if they remarked that this kind of offensive might solve their situation they’ve been into, this may result in aggressive behavior when they get into struggle states later on. (Zaky, 2017). That describes when children develop in a coercive environment, they discover that violence and aggressiveness are standard and that it is standard to use aggressiveness when dealing with other personalities. This sort of learning behavior can reveal, for example, why children who are harmed by their parents can sometimes behave aggressively too because they’ve learned that behavior when they were young.

Throughout this paper, we will examine the social learning theory utilization towards countering the bullying phenomenon in Egypt and how this result in the ridden person’s cerebral and emotional health. The objective of this research is to shed light on the bullying cases happening in Egypt and its connection and application on the social learning theory, and how the media have dealt with this phenomenon (O’Rorke, Volume 25, Fall 2006).

2. Review of Literature

The theory of social learning by many researches has been tested and limited by other researchers while exerting it to a more extensive level. It is rising with the strengths and weaknesses of Bandura’s Social learning theory (SLT). Additional studies showed these pros and cons in two identifiable divisions; the first one is demonstrating the concrete reinforcement; if the action is being compensated or supported by others, there is a prospect to be repeated. The second category is punishments, from a negative aspect, offending or wrecking others. (Alshobramy, 2019). which indicates that as social learning is necessary it is a double-aged sword; the ones can imitate an unenthusiastic or concrete action and can’t be controllable whether he is stimulated enough to mimic that action or not.  Besides, this guides us to examine more recondite at the diffusion of cultivation theory and the assumption of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior to understand one’s perception, attitude -behavior connections including the level of adoption towards what he observes. (Fackler, 2014).

Moving on with the interpretation of bullying, similar to many other phenomena in psychology, there is no approved agreement upon the definition of bullying. (Sameh, 2017). A definition of bullying broadly is “a desire to hurt or execute a negative action” it came through many genres and types as verbal abuse, physical aggression, or relational victimization.

A widely spread phenomenon in Egypt within social media, traditional media, and even in daily life communication in work, clubs, schools, different people suffer from several acts of bullying.

This study shed light on the social learning theory, testing whether the environment of the bullies and the way they have grown up affects their behavior, and cause them to bully others Alfred Adler- an Australian psychotherapist and founder of the school of individual psychology; settled another perspective. He explained why the students clearly behave that way. He considered the reasons in which could encourage the students to behave in many ways and categorized them as:  excessive attention, misguided power, revenge, assumed incompetence (Sameh, 2017).

Another study used qualitative research to test the social learning theory in appropriation to cyber offending, provided sustenance for the influence of SLT on behavior.  More particularly, the study supports the idea of virtual peers’ interactions and their special impact on the individual’s behavior.  Other studies pointed to the importance of virtual peers in offending behavior as computer hacking and social media offending importance of virtual peers on offending behaviors related to computer hacking and social media offending stated in offending comments. (Miller, 2014).

Social learning theories dealt with the understanding of how and why individuals act that way and how they form an affectionate attachment, adopt gender roles, make friends, or hate the other and bully them, from testing the modelling and imitation model of SLT. (E.S.D.P.D.2016) Researchers have found negative aspects and boundaries of the social learning theory. The main point of negativity is that observational learning won’t work if ALL the following factors aren’t present: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. (Pros and Cons of Social Learning Theory in Business, 2019). This indicates that people can be mindful of something, but that doesn’t imply they are motivated to adopt it.

Consequently, social learning theory can’t work on its own to experiment whether the individual has embraced the idea or not. There is a requirement to implement the cultivation of adoption theory along with the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior which presumes that behavior is influenced by attitudes and grasped social measures to get accurate results. (Megan A. Moreno, 2013)

There are constraints of the theory from the behavioral aspect. Firstly the estimation assume that the person has obtained the resources to be successful in completing the desired action and has neglected his intention to perform this specific action.  Further, it dismissed the other factors that could affect his behavioral modifications such as fear, threat, mood, or past experiences; also it didn’t take into account any environmental or economic factors that may affect the person’s purpose to implement such action. The hypothesis doesn’t consider any change and it believes that it is just a consequence of a linear decision-making process, the theory rejected any form of control over the behavior, last but not least the time frame between “purpose” and “behavioral action” is not discussed by the theory. (Jake Morris, 2012)

3. Theoretical Framework

Throughout this paper, we will be measuring the social cognitive theory beyond behaviorism. Particularly in correlation with the bullying phenonium happening in Egypt. Abundant outcomes were believed by Bandura on individuals on their surroundings as their environment had on them (Cherry, 2019).

Moreover, Bandura theory reconciled with behavior theories, which recommended that all behaviors are a learning process, and that children are like a sponge that perpetually imitate what they see or what they are flashed to, bringing into account psychological influences such as attention and memory, in which represents the reciprocal causation. (Cherry, 2019).

That proposes a research question of how social learning theory has a consequence on human behavior in vague, and in particular towards bullying circumstances, that he follows whether from perceiving the act in regular life activities or the media, including theatres, movies, series and social media practices. Complying the behavior as their childhood and the values of their choice and retention on their life. Respectively on brutality and bullying practices through personal and interpersonal communication in a more painstaking expression handle aggressive behavior, and even cyber offending through social networks. (Miller, 2014)

That motivates us to look farther on the social media technologies and how it has changed the way the social communications occurred and the social capital have been performed within our world as by enhancing and improving the cognitive processes of attention, memory, and motivation, social media presents principles for enhancing learning in a social context. (Deaton, 2015). Albert bandura has declared an influential selection towards his theory saying, that “Comparing yourself with others, presents you a believe in vain or bitter, for always there will be a more numerous and a more subordinate person than oneself.” (Bandura, (1986))

4. Suggestions for Application in Egypt

With the accelerated addition of technology and social networks, social media appeared to be the second life that we perpetually escape to subsequent a long tiring day at work. We surf the internet or our social networks account, interacting with our social capital and getting exposed to many incidents a day.

Fresh incidents of bullying occurred on social media, starting with Sherif Mounir- actor- case when he posted photographs of his two young daughters. He got numerous offending comments on the way his daughters are dressed. which strike him at the end to close all his social networks, and made an offending report to the police with all the screenshots he took, to inflate awareness that he has the rights to post whatever he wants on social media without being annoyed.  He stated that if people need to comment-  as they regarded him as a “Public Figure” and this gives them right to intervene in his life-  they could have said what they want in a behaved manner, not to offend and ridicule him and his daughters. (Sherif Mounir vs the Internet: How Far is the Hate Willing to Go?, 2020).

A similar incident occurred with Shady Serour- the famous Youtuber who decided to suicide after all the repugnant comments he got on the content he presented on social media. (Ali, 2018) .  Another occurrence passed with a girl turned to be transgender. They shocked her to death until she committed suicide, when Nour took her side they provoked him too, and many adverse comments were raised in this incident which occurred on social media. (Farouk, 2020).

Other celebrities have been bullied by the populace like Salma Abu Deif labelling her as a flat girl, Asser’s Yassin wife tyrannizing her as being ugly and not attractive enough to be a wife of a celebrity, Shaimaa seif was being bullied as being overweight – Logina salah at the commencement of her career as a makeup artist was bullied for having vitiligo. Hence the media has raised awareness about how this bullying disturbance affects one’s health and by a series by Jamila Awad to raise awareness of vitiligo and how women are all beautiful in any look, (Jamila Awad creates “Ina Ana” and her story of bullying and “Vitiligo”, 2020).

There have been other cases that were looked upon positively and weren’t offended like Rahma Khaled, who is a professional athlete, and the first Egyptian with Down’s syndrome to be a TV presenter. (Tawy, 2018)

A striking act has been seen from the government when they close Reham Saeed Show “Sabaya El Kheir” after talking about the oversized girls and was bullying them, saying they look ugly. (Controversial T.V. host Reham Saeed probed for insulting ‘obese women’, 2019). Moreover, H&M raised a campaign against bullying women with the plus-size model to raise awareness that beauty comes in each shape, further, their report examined and upheld over gender-based violence. (Faisal Bin Majid, 2018)

The media presents bullying in complex aspects as pointing to overweight as something to laugh about, while celebrities like Shaimaa seif, who is using her obesity to gain social capital. Bullying doesn’t happen only online but it happens offline too- as labeling the Chinese person and associate him with “corona” (One of 3 men who bullied Chinese person as ‘corona’ arrested, 2020)

All the previously mentioned incidents can be explained within the frame of social learning theory, to explain why those offenders and negative commenters are bullying others. Their performance can be based on what they have recognized throughout their life, or maybe from the norms and values they have been exposed to and learned in their childhood. Social learning theory can be used to understand why they act this way, why they offend each other.

To sum up, if we study the media exposition of bullying incidents, we will realize that those people who have been exposed to this kind of movies or series are following the same way they’ve watched which define a further looking for both theories the adoption of cultivation theory and social learning theory to understand and shed the light on the cause of such behavior and the reason behind the bullying happenings.

5. Recommendation for Future Research

Social learning theory needs to be examined within a broader concept, as researchers need to examine the reason behind the individual’s behavior and take into account the cultivation of adoption model along with the theory of reasoned action, to get more profound results of the reason why the individual do the act of bullying. Furthermore, it is vital to realize that social learning theory has four manners: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. The theory doesn’t test the level of adoption and how far it has been cultivated  what the bullies watch and imitate.  Another suggestion for future research is to work on the limitation of the social learning theory and reflect the purposes and the reasons behind doing a specific act.


While social media have become a wide phenomenon, it is hard to comprehend how people share norms and values and to what extend they have been mirroring each other. There is a need for more studies and in-depth interviews to apply the theories of SLT and the cultivation of the adoption model in order to understand the bullying phenonium. Mass media need to create awareness campaigns to contending the bullying phenonium. There have been Egyptian drama efforts that handled the issue of bullying as “Except me” – that advance women empowerment and fights bullying. Besides, the ironic shows that take the bullying act as a joke needs to be censored and looked upon from a wider perspective, how it would reshape the viewers and in what level they will negatively imitate the actors. If these instructions have been applied in the Egyptian media as mass, we will be noticing a change that advocates and respect any person without even considering his gender, color, weight or any particular case he is occurring.


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