Social Learning Interventions

Social education is often taken for granted.While not everyone has the opportunity to bond to a mother who is warm and supportive, have peers who are oriented to appropriate social play and find heterosexual relationships which support positive mental schema about oneself, others and future prospects, we think that somehow they should be aware of what is right. Therefore when they do not behave as expected we identify them as abnormal; meaning either deviant or criminal [perverted or evil]. While their behavior may be perverted or evil or both; it is not always clear that they are. Only after they have been helped to understand their own internal logic and to evaluate the effectiveness of that logic in reaching their goals can they choose .

There are two basic social learning interventions: cognitive restructuring and skill building. However there is also the process of prosocial culture restructuring which can be both preventative and supportive. Prevention occurs because it offers an opportunity for the person to learn the basics of social competence in vivo and doesnÕt require that a faux pas occur that is so severe that it identifies on as abnormal and makes them eligible for counseling or skill building. Support occurs because the environment is ÔseededÕ with prosocial responses which reinforce not only the behavior of the one with problems in living, but structures the behavior of others in the environment as well.

Cognitive restructuring

Counseling is a function, not a role. Cognitive restructuring provides a process in which the counselor helps the individual become aware of and evaluate his/her own mental schema and to make choices about it. Counseling services can be provided in various settings [including in vivo] and with individuals or groups. These are remedial services. The word remedy is closely related to the word medicine – to ÔhealÕ and has been extended to Ôsomething that corrects a wrongÕ. Remedial services are needed when the individualÕs coping and interpersonal skills have broken down so completely that they need to be rebuilt. The process [awareness, evaluation, alternative solutions, consequential thinking, choose, reinforcement], while essentially the same in all cases, has variations which vary in depth, intensity and context.

Skill Building

Social competence, like any other competence is capacity to expectation. Too often individuals are asked to perform in a role in which they are not competent [e.g., do not have the skills and/or resources]. Such a request is disempowering. Learning many social skills ought to be developmental [e.g., learned in the process of maturation. Unfortunately when they are not learned, or not learned properly, the resultant behaviors create problems in living for oneself and others. The disruption in normative behavior often makes it difficult for those who know how to play their roles under normal expectations to continue to be effective. Therefore, non-normative behavior often evokes non-normative response behavior causing a cycle of maladaption.

Unlike counseling which has the same content and process, skill building varies widely in content. The process [modeling, behavior rehearsal or roleplaying, feedback and reinforcement] remains the same in all skill building.

Culture Restructure

The process followed in developing a prosocial culture [e.g., a culture which emphasizes positive reinforcement of prosocial behaviors rather then punishment of antisocial behaviors] has elements which are quite different than the developmental and remedial interventions since the intervention itself is with a socio-cultural entity [school, family], rather than with an individual or the members of a group. The word culture has in it roots a concept of Ôinhabiting a placeÕ – however, perhaps the best way to understand culture and its influence is to understand it in terms of fields and force. Just as a magnetic field exerts a force; so to do certain relationships in the human behavior stream. As a social unit the family probably has a stronger force on the child than the school; but both have a force of control. Dubin [1973] suggests that culture is best seen as a set of control mechanisms – plans, recipes, rules, instructions, which are the principle basis for the specificity of behavior and an essential condition for governing it. The ability to provide such controls which are Ôprosocial variables provokes a cultural evolution from present behaviors and their management to a new level of control.

Interestingly the culture is ÒseededÓ with the cognitive variables as shown on the chart below. The variables are a process of cognitive restructuring. Additionally, the in situ use provides the opportunity for social skill building direction.

Process Comparison

Prosocial

Cognitive

Stop & Think

Awareness

Good Choice – Bad Choice

Evaluate

Steps/Choices

Alternative Solutions/Consequences

Just Do It!

Choose

How did I do?

Reinforcement

Outside of the action aspect to step four, the steps are identical to the cognitive restructuring phases used in counseling. However, for the person in the culture who is reinforcing the prosocial culture by raising the Ôstop and thinkÕ question, the process is often one of skill building. The helping person may need to model the behavior, allow a behavior rehearsal, offer feedback and reinforce. So the prosocial culture is providing both a cognitive restructuring and skill building environment.

The change to a prosocial culture places a positive high expectation which in turn becomes a Òself fulfilling prophecyÓ and that is very important. Such prophecies are said to occur when belief concerning the occurrence of some future event makes one behave in a manner that increases the likelihood that the expected event will occur. These interpersonal expectancy effects demonstrate how much individual human beings are interrelated1. There are two meanings to expectancy - likelihood of occurrence and ought to ; and it is the former which creates the phenomenon. Thus the more the people in the culture comes to believe that the members will act prosocially, the greater the likelihood that it will happen. The process of building a prosocial culture subtly creates a different belief system in the members through the implanting of the ÒseedsÓ of language and providing them with actions which support the likelihood of occurrence.

© Jerome R. Gardner – March 1998

1Interested readers may want to read ÔMetaphorÕ which is in the theory section. It explores a metaphor of field theory and quantum mechanics with culture as the field and ideas as the particles.

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