Social Cognitive Theory

Albert Bandura and the Social Cognitive Theory

Albert Bandura has made significant contributions to several psychological theories, particularly the social cognitive theory. The hypothesis is concerned with how people learn from others through seeing them. A notable example of the principle is when students emulate their teacher in class. The kids observe and mimic the teacher's actions. The learnt attitude is heavily influenced by an individual's personality. Psychologists agree that an individual's upbringing has a significant impact on their actions and thus cognition. According to Bandura, the primary components that drive the establishment of a connection known as reciprocal triadic are cognition, environment, and conduct. He changed the theory's name from social learning theory to social cognitive theory to emphasize on duty it plays in performing behaviors (Bandura, 2001).

Social Cognitive Theory

Social cognitive theory suggests that a portion of a person's knowledge is acquired through observing others in the context of experiences, social interactions, and media influences. This theory holds that when people observe a model behave in a certain manner and the consequences of the behavior, they tend to remember the sequence of events and apply it in their subsequent behaviors (Bandura, 20091). A model, in this case, can be influential people like parents, teachers or guardians. This theory supports why children behave in a manner they are brought up. Through observation of a model, the viewer can be prompted to involve the behaviors they already learned. This implies that people do not learn new behaviors by trying in their own ways or developing new ideas. They depend on replicating the actions and ideas done by others. The survival of a human being depends on the actions done in the past, which are just renewed and modified. The viewer of a model can choose to replicate behaviors depending on whether the outcomes are rewarded or punished.

Factors influencing Learning

Four factors contribute to learning, as argued by Bandura (2001). These factors include responses, cues, drives, and rewards. Social motivation is a drive that entails imitativeness. People match their actions to an appropriate context of when and where. Individuals tend to imitate a behavior depending on whether the model receives negative or positive responses as the outcomes. Bandura conducted the Bobo doll experiment to solidify this concept (Bandura, 2001). The study was to find out why children sometimes express aggressive behaviors. From the experiment, he concluded that there is a direct correlation between behavioral change and the perceived self-efficacy. Self-efficacy originates from four sources which are vicarious experience, psychological states, verbal persuasions and performance accomplishments.

Application of Social Cognitive Theory

The recent work of Bandura focuses on the impact of social cognitive theory on areas of health and population in relation to the climatic change. He suggests that these problems can be solved through television dramas. They show the models performing similar behaviors, which can be applied in real life scenarios. On population crisis, he states that the growth of population is a global crisis because it correlates to the depletion of the resources on earth. He, therefore, recommends that social cognitive theory should be applied to make people use birth control programs, to model environmental conservation and reduce gender inequality through educational programs. Bandura believes that the benefits of living healthy outweigh the cost of fixing health issues. He states that the modern world is moving from the disease model to health model. This means that many health issues can be solved when we focus on people being healthy rather than focusing on people with problems. It is effective when the healthcare facilities educate people on how to be healthy rather than treating them when they are sick (Bandura, 2001).

The Triadic Reciprocal Scheme

The triadic reciprocal scheme shows the determinants that influence the reproduction of observed behavior. These determinants are behavioral, personal and environmental aspects. Behavioral aspect deals with the response that an individual gets after performing a behavior. The positive response implies that the learner can imitate the behavior successfully. Personal aspect shows whether a person has low or high self-efficacy towards the behavior. This aspect gives a learner an opportunity to believe in their own abilities. Environmental aspects influence the ability of a person to complete a behavior successfully. Albert argues that change in behavior does not necessarily imply learning has taken place, but it can occur without a change in behavior. The social cognitive theory is built on several foundations which are the human agency, human capability, modeling, outcome expectancies, identification, and self-efficacy.


Bandura is still expanding the theory and showing its applications in real-life problems. He argues that understanding the theoretical concept can help in solving many real-life issues that humanity encounter in their day to day activities (Bandura, 2009). Social cognitive theory has been applied in many areas such as career choice, analyzing organizational behaviors, and understanding the motivation in a classroom. This theory is also applied in mass communication and public health. The modeling from mass communication contributes a lot in shaping the morality of individuals.


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 1-26.

Bandura, A. (2009). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & M.B.Oliver (Eds.), Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (pp. 94-124). New York: Routledge.

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