Social Cognitive Theory
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The Social Cognitive Theory emphasizes how cognitive, behavioral, personal, and environmental factors interact to determine motivation and behavior . The Social Cognitive Theory was presented by Albert Bandura in response to his dissatisfaction with the principles of behaviorism and psychoanalysis. His research is primarily focused on self-efficacy, the beliefs regarding one's capabilities of completing tasks or goals successfully .
Albert Bandura[change | edit source]
Albert Bandura (born December 4, 1925) is a psychologist that has done a great deal of work on social learning and is credited for his famous "Social Learning Theory". This theory was renamed "Social Cognitive Theory". His theory defines human behavior as a three-way, dynamic, and reciprocal interaction of personal factors, behavior, and the environment. According to this theory, the behavior of an individual is determined by three factors with more emphasis on the cognitive processes that mediate learning . Response consequences of a behavior are used as expectations of behavioral outcomes. It is the ability to form these expectations that give humans the capacity to predict the outcomes of their behavior, before the behavior is performed. In addition, the social cognitive theory posits that most behavior is learned vicariously . Bandura's social cognitive theory suggests that humans can learn through observation without imitating the observed behavior. Bandura is also credited with the theoretical construct of self-efficacy and is responsible for the research in the influential 1961 Bobo doll experiment.
Overview[change | edit source]
Social cognitive theory explains psychosocial functioning in terms of triadic reciprocal causation. In this causal model, behavior, personal factors and the environment operate as interacting determinants that influence each other bi-directionally. Bandura deemed that individuals can learn through observing others without the need for imitating such behavior. With vicarious learning capabilities, an individual could learn through observing others' behaviors and the rewards or consequences of those behaviors. The bi-directional influences of this causal model results in the remarkable intercultural and intracultural diversity evident in our planet . Social cognitive theory calls to mind that learning occurs when an individual takes the observed behavior and incorporates it into their own knowledge.
Fundamental Human Capabilities[change | edit source]
Social cognitive theory suggests people are neither driven by global traits nor automatically shaped and controlled by the environment . They serve as contributors to their own motivation, behavior, and development within a network of reciprocally interacting influences. Within Bandura's social cognitive theory is the understanding that individuals are instilled with certain capabilities that define what it is to be human . Bandura explains that the five fundamental human capabilities are symbolizing capabilities, vicarious learning capabilities, forethought capabilities, self-regulation capabilities, and self-reflection capabilities. Together, these five fundamental capabilities originated the basis for our immense human potential. In addition, they help clarify the cognitive processes that result in our behavioral output .
Social cognitive theory assumes that observers acquire mainly symbolic representations of modeled events. The use of symbols allows communication with others at any distance in time and space. For an individual to imitate a model's behavior at some later time, the response patterns must be represented in memory in symbolic form. After the modeled behaviors have been transformed into images and verbal symbols, the memory codes function as guides for any following imitation of identical reactions . Cognitive imagery of experiences in knowledge structures provide the fundamentals for thinking. The major advantage of symbolic modeling in Bandura's social cognitive theory is that the models may be viewed more than once by students . The humans' amazing capacity to use symbols to represent any observed modeled behavior provide them with a powerful tool for understanding and managing their surroundings.
In social cognitive theory, vicarious learning capability is another unique human feature that is of importance. Practically all learning situations resulting from direct experience can occur vicariously by observing the modeled behaviors and their outcomes . Much social learning occurs either deliberately or inadvertently by observing the actual behavior of others and the consequences for them. However, a great deal of information about behavior patterns and the effects they have on the environment is gained from models portrayed symbolically through verbal or pictorial means. Vicarious learning permits individuals to learn a novel behavior without actually undergoing the trial-and-error process of performing it. Observational learning is governed by the processes of attention, retention, production, and motivation. If engaging in the observed behavior produces valued results and expectation, the individual is motivated to adopt the behavior and repeat it in the future .
Through the use of symbols, individuals present details about cognitive problems and engage in self-regulation and forethought. People plan courses of action, anticipate the likely consequences of these actions, and set goals and challenges for themselves to motivate, guide and regulate their activities. It is because of the capability to plan alternative strategies that one can anticipate the consequences of an action without actually engaging in it . Bandura reports that self-regulatory systems mediate external influences and provide a starting point for purposeful action. This allow people to have personal control over their own thoughts, behavior, and actions . Self-regulation allows the steady replacement of internal controls for external controls of behavior. Adults respond differentially to children's behaviors, and this differential responsitivity is one kind of information children consider when developing personal standards about which behaviors are worthy of self-blame or self-praise. Children observe that people set self-evaluation standards for themselves as well, and this behavior is also considered when formulating personal standards. Children are also reinforced by agents of socialization for engaging in self-regulation. In the end, self-regulation depends on external forces . Bandura informs that self-regulation occurs through the interactions of internal and external sources of influence. This includes motivational, social, and moral principles.
The use of motivational standards as a guide for behavior is a process of goal setting and the work needed to attain the goal. Three factors seem to determine the degree of self-motivation that occurs:
- First, a person's self-efficacy for a given behavior dramatically affects their self-motivation for performing that behavior. If an individual believes they are capable of achieving the goal, they are more likely to work harder and give up less easily .
- The second factor is feedback. Feedback allows an individual to control and adjust their goals in a more reasonable manner.
- The third factor that influences self-motivation is the anticipated time for goal attainment. Short-term goals are more effective than goals that are out of reach in attaining self-motivation .
Social and moral standards also control behavior. The association between thought and conduct is mediated through the exercise of moral agency . Internalized morals and standards can regulate conduct . The selection of standards depends on the weight of such factors as differences in perceived capabilities between the model and the self, how much a particular activity is valued, and the extent to which individuals see their behavior as a purpose of their own effort and aptitude instead of external factors. As a result, an individual would self-regulate their own behavior.
The manner and degree to which people self-regulate their own actions and behavior involve the accuracy and consistency of their self-observation and self-monitoring. The judgments they make regarding their actions, choices, and attributions are involved as well. Finally, the evaluation and tangible reactions they make to their own behavior through the self-regulatory process influences how a person would self-regulate their actions and behaviors.
Self-reflection includes evaluations of one’s own self and tangible self-motivators that act as personal incentives to behave in self-directed ways. It is an important feature of social cognitive theory. Self-reflective capability involves self-consciousness, which is the uniquely human ability that enables us to think about and evaluate our own thought processes . Through self-reflection, people make sense of their experiences, explore their own cognitions and self-beliefs, engage in self-evaluation, and alter their thinking and behavior accordingly.
Reciprocal Determinism[change | edit source]
The social cognitive theory explains behavior in terms of a three-way interaction between the environment, personal factors, and behavior. . It does not imply that one factor may be stronger than others. They do not all occur simultaneously. Bandura states that the interaction between the three factors will differ based on the individual, the particular behavior being examined, and the specific situation in which the behavior occurs .
The person-behavior interaction involves the bi-directional influences of one's thoughts, emotions, and biological properties and one's actions . A person's expectations, beliefs, self-perceptions, goals, and intentions give shape and direction to behavior. The behavior expressed will affect one's thoughts and emotions. The social cognitive theory accounts for biological personal factors, such as sex, ethnicity, temperament, and genetic predisposition and the influences they have on behavior .
In addition, a two-way interaction occurs between the environment and personal characteristics. Human expectations, beliefs, and cognitive competencies are developed and modified by social influences and physical structures within the environment . The social factors can express information and trigger emotional reactions through modeling, instruction, and social persuasion. Humans evoke different reactions from their social environment as a result of their physical characteristics, such as age, size, race, sex, physical attractiveness .
The final interplay takes place between behavior and the environment. Bandura argues that people are both products and producers of their environment . A person's behavior will determine the aspects of their environment to which they are exposed. The behavior is modified by that environment. An individual's behavior can affect the way in which they experience the environment through selective attention. Selective attention refers to the vast range of possibilities of how humans select whom they interact with and the activities they participate in. The environment partly determines which forms of one's behavior are developed and activated .
Observational Learning Determinants[change | edit source]
Observational or "social" learning is regulated by four component process, which results in a person translating a modeled event into a performance that is matched with the model . According to Bandura, a model can be either an actual person or symbolic, such as a book, a picture, or a set of instructions. The process consists of four variables: attention, retention, behavior production, and motivation . Each of these components has a function to engage either in the attainment of information about events or in the decision to put this information to use in guiding behavior.
First, the observer must pay attention to events that are modeled. In order for an individual to learn anything, he or she must pay attention to the characteristics of the modeled behavior. Attention is determined by a variety of variables. These variables include the power and attractiveness of the model viewed as well as the conditions under which behavior is viewed . People must be able to remember the activities of the modeled behavior at one time or another. The information retained can be in the form of mental images or verbal descriptions. Bandura notes that once information is stored, information about the modeled behavior can be retrieved, rehearsed, and strengthened some time after the learning has occurred. Behavior production refers to performing what was observed from the model. The individual observing the model should be able to physically and intellectually reproduce the action of the model. Repetition and practice of this observed behavior lead to improvement and skill advancement. Finally, there must be an incentive to motivate the individual to perform the modeled action. Reinforcement and punishment is an important factor in motivation. Experiencing the motivators is a highly effective. Observing others experience some type of reinforcement or punishment can be effective as well.
Self-efficacy[change | edit source]
Psychologists use the term self-efficacy to describe beliefs about one's ability to accomplish particular tasks . Individuals with higher self-efficacy are more confident in their abilities to accomplish a given task. It is often associated with greater decision making strategies, quick recovery from a setback, and a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities . According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy:
- Mastery Experiences
- Social Modeling
- Social Persuasion
- Psychological Responses
Bandura explains that the most effective way of developing a strong sense of self-efficacy is through mastery experiences. Successfully completing a task strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately complete a challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy . Social modeling is the act of witnessing other people successfully completing a task. The second influential way of creating and strengthening self-efficacy beliefs is through vicarious experiences provided by social models. Bandura suggests that watching people similar to oneself succeed with sustained effort raises the observers' beliefs that they also have the ability to master similar activities to succeed . In short, the greater the assumed similarity between the model and the observer, the more influential are the models' successes and failures. The third major source of strengthening self-efficacy is social persuasion. Self-efficacy is influenced by the encouragement and discouragement pertaining to an individual's performance or ability to perform. Individuals who receive verbal encouragement are more likely to rally greater effort in accomplishing an activity and overcome self-doubt. Bandura pointed out that negative messages have an even greater influence on lowering efficacy expectations than positive messages do on increasing efficacy . Furthermore, influential efficacy builders arrange situations for individuals in ways that leads to success and avoid placing people in conditions where they are likely to fail often. The fourth major source that influences self-efficacy is an individual's own psychological and emotional responses. Bandura notes that moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can influence how an individual feels about personal abilities in a particular situation . Positive moods and emotional states increase perceived self-efficacy. Pessimistic and negative moods weaken it. Reducing an individual's stress level, reducing their negative emotional state, and correcting misinterpretations of bodily states are ways of influencing efficacy beliefs .
Other Sources That Influence Self-efficacy[change | edit source]
In addition, research shows that social comparison of one's own performance to the performance of others, especially peers or siblings, serve as a strong source of self-efficacy. Schools are also considered a strong source of self-efficacy. It is good to note that schools are based on the evaluation of students by comparing individual performance to the group's performance. However, this type of evaluation can result in severe problems in self-efficacy for those who lag behind or have trouble with academics .
Mass Media and Social Cognitive Theory[change | edit source]
Television reality shows can manipulate abstract portrayals of human nature, social relations, and the norms and the structure of society . Social cognitive theory states that humans can learn by observing how other people behave. In research about mass media, the social cognitive theory is referenced as a framework that might explain certain behaviors and influences from media effects. Bandura suggests that television influences the viewers' beliefs about reality. It is not because people watch too much television but rather the content of the televised show. To see the world as the televised messages portray it is to harbor some misconceptions . New behaviors and their potential consequences can be represented, observed and imitated because of the influences of television or the internet.
In one study, researchers argued that the positive correlation between television viewing and the initiation of youth smoking was a result of the rarity with which television portrays the negative consequences of smoking . In another study, researchers theorized that the positive relationship between exposure to women's magazine and women's drive for thinness is a function of the tendency for women's magazines to link thinness to positive consequences, thus engendering extrinsic motivation for dietary behavior . There are also studies that reference social cognitive theory to explain the possible effects of mass media regarding race and gender. Though these studies did not test social cognitive theory directly, but instead drew from its concepts to assume how it would explain the effect acknowledged in their study.
Self-Regulation and Motivation Through Goal Systems[change | edit source]
Social cognitive theory suggests goals influence people's cognitive and emotional reactions to performance outcomes because goals indicate the requirements for personal success . People have created guides and motivators for activities that lead to their desired outcome. Bandura found that goal systems gain motivating power through self-evaluative and self-efficacy mechanisms that are activated by cognitive comparison. It can improve an individual's cognitive well-being and accomplishments in several ways .
Goals have strong motivational effects. They provide an individual with a sense of direction and purpose. They also help to build an individual's self-efficacy. Successfully completing a goal increases an individual's self-beliefs in their capabilities. Bandura links this effect with the increase interest in what an individual is doing and the increase in self-satisfaction. Motivation through goals provide an ongoing source of self-efficacy, interest, and satisfaction. Those without these characteristics are often unmotivated and uncertain about their abilities .
References[change | edit source]
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