Julian B Rotter created Social Learning Theory, or SLT
PPPEL Admin December 5, 2022 No Comments

Rotter’s Social Learning Theory (SLT)

Julian B Rotter created Social Learning Theory, or SLT

Julian B. Rotter, PhD, was rated as one of the 60 most influential Psychologists of the 21st century, resulting from the large body of Internal Locus of Control research generated by his science-based approach to human problem solving. As one of the first and foremost theorists in Clinical Psychology, his theory is highly unique, especially when seeking a genuine, scientific theory, with clearly defined theoretical constructs and precise specifications of the interactions of these constructs. Social Learning Theory, or SLT, was the first of the Cognitive-Behavioral Theories now dominating throughout psychological circles worldwide.

A full presentation of SLT is not the intent of this article. What is intended is you, as a seeker of useful psychological knowledge, become aware of the existence of SLT and be exposed to the basic theoretical constructs and formulations so carefully laid out by Dr. Rotter.

The first basic assumption of Social Learning Theory: People are GOAL DIRECTED

Generally, people are basically motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain. To understand how to go about this with a well-formulated personal strategy, SLT proposes four basic factors to be considered for any truly useful strategy. Each factor is presented below for your review:


In SLT, Reward Value, or RV, is defined as the degree of preference you have for one reward over another. A simple example is our preference for $100 over $1 dollar. When we are clear what our RV preferences are, we can predict the course of our behaviors. Example: For example, If you prefer playing the piano versus the guitar, it is predicted you will advance toward playing the piano; you are goal directed. Of course, we all have many RVs, and it is useful to rank order them as we predict the choices you will be making as you seek achievement of various goals. Our online Personal Concerns Inventory (PCI) can be a big help if you want to self-assess this aspect of your personal consciousness.


Behavior Potential, a.k.a. BP, is defined as the probability you will engage in a particular behavior relevant to achievement of your preferred goals. Thus, if playing the piano is high on your list of preferred goals, the BP relevant to achieving that goal, is to practice the skills needed for successful performance.


Once you have a clear notion regarding your goals and the behaviors required for achieving them, it is important to assess your expectancy (E). That is, can you expect your goal directed behaviors will lead to actual achievements? If, for example, you want to learn how to play the piano and want to practice piano playing skills, there must exist a relatively high Expectancy your behaviors will lead to successful goal achievement. In many ways, expectancy is much like ATTITUDE. “I can get things done when they are important enough to me” OR “No matter what happens this isn’t going to work out.” Positive expectancies generate FOCUSED ACTION, whereas negative expectancies generate avoidance and no action, or halfhearted action at best. Can you see yourself in this scenario when you are pursuing or not pursuing a goal?


To be successful in the pursuit of your goals, it always makes a huge difference to know what situations will be most supportive of your goal directed behaviors. If, for example, your goal (RV) is to control your use of alcohol through decreased drinking (BP) and you have a high Expectancy (E) you can achieve this goal, your chances of succeeding increase when you carefully examine the situations you will be in. If you like going to Charlie’s Bar every day after work for a drink with colleagues, then you are faced with the pressing challenge of having a drink, which is much more difficult in this Psychological Situation (PS). So, in SLT, the Psychological Situation (PS) is fundamentally a matter of how you look at various situations and how they support or detract from successful goal achievements.

Thus we have a basic SLT formula for the prediction of goal directed behaviors:

BP = f (E & RV) in PS

In ordinary language this reads, Behavioral Potential is a function of expectancy for reward and the perceived value of that reward, in a particular psychological situation.

There is an abundance of information regarding SLT available to those enrolled in the Coaches (Advanced) Plan, within our PPPeLearning mini courses. Please know, there is much more to Social Learning Theory than presented here. The current goal is to let you know SLT exists, providing a most unique, evidence-based model for solving personal concerns.

Internal and External Locus of Control

One measure of the value of any scientific theory is the degree to which it is successful in generating research to measure the validity and range of application of the theory.

Locus of Control (LOC) research is worldwide and initiated by investigators seeking greater understanding of the usefulness of this SLT construct. In short summary, Internals are those who view personal success and rewards coming their way as the result of skills they have acquired. External’s view rewards coming their way as the result of good luck and the actions of powerful others. In general, research outcomes reveal Internals are more successful in almost every aspect of life, including level of education and personal income, less jail time and the list goes on. For a comprehensive review of LOC research, you can check out an edited book by Herbert M. Lefcourt, “RESEARCH WITH THE LOCUS OF CONTROL CONSTRUCT”.

Positive PERFORMANCE Psychology

Positive PERFORMANCE Psychology builds upon Social Learning Theory (our rational side) in conjunction with Polyvagal Theory (our visceral, emotional side) and In The Zone Skills Training (our performance side) Collectively, they provide a solid, evidence/science-based foundation for personal development. If you enrolled in the Personal Plan option, you are engaged in the basics of PPP. If you enrolled in the Coaches Plan option and become certified as an In The Zone Life Coach, you will be prepared to teach and be a lay counselor, using our online technologies as basic teaching tools leading to SELF-COMMAND, FOCUSED ACTION and PEAK PERFORMANCE.