MET:Albert Bandura-Social Cognitive Theory

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Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura was born and raised in Alberta, Canada and took his undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. From there he moved to the University of Iowa where he received his M.A. and then his Ph. D. in 1952. Doctor Bandura then took up a position at Stanford University where all of his major research has been undertaken.

His research and his studies are closely allied with issues of great concern to today's society. He has researched television violence, modeled aggression, modeled anti-social behaviour, the teaching of prosocial behaviour, the internalizing of prosocial behaviours and the issue of how individuals judge their capabilities. He is, of course, best known for his theory of modeling.

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Albert Bandura

Social Cognitive Theory

Bandura (1986) developed and defined the social cognitive theory which proposes that people are neither driven by inner forces nor automatically shaped and controlled by external stimuli. Rather, human functioning is explained in terms of a model of triadic reciprocal determinism. In this model, which can be visualized as an equilateral triangle, behaviour, cognitive and other personal factors and environmental events all operate as interacting determinants of each other. The nature of persons is then defined within this triadic perspective.

The term reciprocal refers to the mutual action whilst determinism signifies the production of effects. Because of the multiplicity of interacting influences within the triad, different conditions can cause or aid different effects.

Therefore the nature of the person who emerges is unique even though all people are defined within the triad. Because people possess self directive capablilities they are able to exercise significant control over their thoughts, feeling and actions. This self-regulatory function forms an important part of the social cognitive theory. There is a continuous interplay between the self-generated and the external sources of influence. People create guides for their behaviour, self motivators for courses of action and then respond to their behaviours in a self evaluative way. Very often the standards used for judging behaviour are based on the reactions of significant others to this behaviour.

The research upon which this theory rests contains many facets that help to explain how people acquire the knowledge about human social behaviour that is needed in order to function. One of the improtant facets of human social learning is modeling.


In 1963 Bandura and Walters first used the term social learning to indicate that learning would be very tedious if people had to rely on trial and error in order to learn. Fortunately, most human behaviour is learned observationally through modeling.

Bandura's conceptualization of modeling is far more comprehensive than earlier ones and contains provision for developing new and creative thought. He suggests we observe others and encode the information that will serve as a guide for later action. Modeling is a very efficient method of social learning in that it can be done vicariously, simply through the observation of others. The five kinds of social behaviour that can be learned this way are 1. new cognitive skills and behaviours; 2. strengthened or weakened previously learned inhibitions; 3. social prompts or inducements; 4. how to use the environment; 5. when to become aroused and what emotional reaction to express. (Tuckman, 1992)

Self Efficacy

Self efficacy is a major concept in Bandura's theory of behaviour and motivation. According to Bandura self efficacy is one's judgement of one's own capability to carry out a course of action successfully. Bandura's theory predicts that people will choose, persist in, and expend effort on tasks that they believe they can carry out successfully. this theory also suggests that people will avoid situations that they believe exceed their coping skills. Bandura further theorizes that a good sense of self efficacy provides the resilience for creative individuals to persist in persuing an objective even after being rejected many times. People must have fairly robust feelings of self efficacy today because of the complexities of today's societies. So besides the necessary skills needed to function in society is added the need of a fairly strong sense of self efficacy. Psychology books of today make no mention of the children's classic The Little Engine That Could which is perhaps one of the best examples of self efficacy. Its story line "I think I can, I think I can....I knew I could. I knew I could!" can easily be understood by all. Another interesting vignette is the story concerning William Saroyan, the famous novelist. It is said that he received 3000 rejection slips before his first work was published and it was his own mother who eventually published.

Educational Relevance

In today's schools it has become increasingly necessary for teachers to assume the responsibility for teaching good social and behavioural skills. It would seem that Bandura's theory, research and beliefs all eventually concern themselves with the empowerment of the person in a just and caring society, the same goal as all educators have in the classroom. This goal is the empowerment of children to think and act independently in a generous way. Over 200 years ago Jean Jacques Rousseau said "Far from disheartening your pupils' youthful courage, spare nothing to lift up their soul; make them your equals in order that they may become your equals" (Rousseau, 1762).

Video Resources

Social Cognitive Theory

External Links

Albert Bandura

Social Cognitive Theory and Self Efficacy

Bobo Doll Experiment


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Tuckman, B.W. (1992). Educational Psychology: From theory to application. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.