By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business
This is the 11th article in a 12-part series, adapted from my dissertation work at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, on the discord between academe and industry over the role of hospitality education and the purpose it serves in career development for hospitality professionals.
In previous parts of this series, we looked at the primary criticisms of higher education hospitality programs and the socioeconomic theories that attempt to define the value of those programs, to career success in general and to hospitality industry applications specifically.
But it is important to understand the particulars by which individuals derive their values that inform career development and employment decisions. Prior research has defined values as “enduring beliefs that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence.” Values have also been described more simply as ideal principles on which members of a community base their judgment and decide which course of action to adopt.
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
The Social Learning Theory (SLT) was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in 1969. SLT essentially posits that human beings learn from one another through social interactions, observation, memorization and imitation. The details are outlined in a previous article I authored.
Suffice it to say Bandura proposed that the learning of many social skills occurs through studying the effects of different social behaviors. When these behaviors are adopted, they lead to desirable consequences and those that lead to undesirable ones are rejected.
The external environment within which an individual observes a model and the circumstances present at the time of the observation are pivotal to the outcomes of a social learning engagement. Additionally, the characteristics of the model can determine whether or not observation — and subsequent education — will occur.
Individuals Observe and Learn from Those People with Whom They Identify
Individuals are prone to observe and learn from those people with whom they “identify.” In other words, we look to those with whom we either find similarities (whether they be physical, psychosocial, or otherwise) or to those with whom we ascribe value (those we respect, admire, and/or aspire to imitate) in order to learn.
Finally, the observer himself or herself is yet another variable, and one that should not be ignored in this process. An observer’s cognition and self-efficacy — or the extent to which one is confident in his or her ability and desires to successfully perform the subject behavior — also play a significant role in the learning process.
Therefore, even if someone observes an attribute and evaluates it to be of high personal utility if the observer is unwilling or unable (whether actually or perceptibly) to imitate the attribute, this will obviously affect the degree to which such attributes are actually adopted. SLT is critical to understanding how values might be passed from one individual to another in a hospitality career setting.
In the final part, we’ll look at the working model for a “recycling of values” in hospitality.