Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory was first developed by the Canadian-American psychologist Albert Bandura (1925-). It is one of the most influential theories of human learning and development. Social cognitive theory is premised on the notion that humans learn by observing and reflecting upon the behaviors of role models. As such, the learner’s internal mental state at the time of observation significantly shapes what is learned. What and how much is learned depends on the degree to which the learner is attentive to the events; learning is likely to be more focused when the role model behaves in intriguing ways, or when there is a novel aspect to what is being observed.
Differences in internal states in turn mean that the same observation may prompt rather different responses and lessons for different learners—or for the same learner at different points time. Moreover, the mere fact that something is learned does not necessarily mean that it will affect the learner’s behavior. For the learner’s behavior to change, s/he must be sufficiently motivated to model the learned behavior, and to practice that behavior to improve one’s own skills. Thus, social cognitive theory provides a rather dynamic and multifaceted perspective on human behavior and development. Bandura’s action-oriented, problem-solving framework is embraced especially by those who view behavior as a changeable and redeemable quality over which the individual can exercise great control, rather than as a predetermined and largely inalterable entity.