Introduction to Social Cognitive Theory

Albert Bandura invented social cognitive theory in 1977. According to Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory, developed language ability, observational learning and purposeful behavior influence personality development, growth, and change. Through observation, social interaction and vicarious reinforcement behavior can be acquired through watching suitable models.

Self-Efficacy as a Principle of Social Cognitive Learning

Self-efficacy is a principle of social cognitive learning that is valued for its contribution to enabling an individual to succeed in most of their tasks. Self-efficacy involves developing a personal confidence of your capabilities to perform some tasks to enable you pull through any situations you encounter. There are three factors that affect child efficacy beliefs, these are efficacy intended to enable one develop their own means of learning, efficacy to help an individual manage their social interactions with others and self efficacy to enable one desist from what is not right to them. This means that someone’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors are the most essential determinants of the self-efficacy an individual has.

A deeper understanding of the Self-efficacy has is important for teachers for them to understand how to handle these students and more so those with a low self-efficacy. A teacher can use a number of ways to understand the self-efficacy of a student. For teachers to understand if a student has a low self-efficacy, they ought to discuss with these students about their capabilities and discuss with them to see how much they appreciate themselves or how good they believe they can perform certain things. Teachers can help students improve their self-efficacy by helping them to develop learning strategies that they themselves can relate to since it helps them improve self-monitoring. Teachers can also help students by reassuring them that the goals they have set are attainable. Also encouraging students by letting them know where they are going right and where they need to correct and informing them that they are indeed making progress towards these goals is important in improving one’s self efficacy.

Modeling Different Behavior Traits

Another principle of the social cognitive theory is that observational learning is acquired through first understanding modeled behavior and then later putting it to practice. According to Bandura, through modeling different behavior traits one develops a personal knowledge of how to deal with situations through understanding rules and processes of tackling it. This means that people learn things through observation where they first apprehend what has been observed, and through recurrence of situations one gets to put into practice the modeled behavior.(Rollins).

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This modeling approach is used in school for teaching whereby it involves letting the students get to watch a suitable model that better addresses a particular concept demonstrate. Through observation, students will acquire the knowledge, skills, rules, and strategies to enable them perform the concept that was shown to them. The behaviors that children may happen to learn through modeling are new cognitive skills and behaviors on how to handle and control emotions, environmental management and strengthened or weakened preceding developed self-consciousness. The influence of the actions that people often see largely determines what will guide them in performing certain actions (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2010).

Vicarious Reinforcement and Punishment

Another principle of social cognitive theory is that behavior can also be modeled through vicarious reinforcement and punishment. These two forms of modeling behavior however are unpredictable and may produce adverse effects on learning. Vicarious reinforcement involves rewarding a role model so that an observer will want to be rewarded for doing something good too. This approach is also used in schools also to motivate students where if one kid is awarded for a certain achievement, the others will also want to be rewarded making them work harder.

Punishment on the other hand seeks to restrain someone from repeating a certain behavior trait but may be viewed as a negative means of modeling behavior. An example is when the parent wants to prevent a certain trait from recurring punishes a child, but instead exposes the child to a violent behavior that they might adapt to. Thus instead of using punishments to model behavior it is better to employ a more positive approach in form of vicarious reinforcement to develop the kids desire to achieve like the rewarded model.

Personal Experience

Another principle of social cognitive learning is that behavior is learnt because of personal experience. Through the different encounters we come across, different behaviors are modeled from these experiences. Social cognitive theory tries to counter that our interaction with the environment does not in any way affect how we adapt to certain behavioral traits but it is rather through one’s own decision to adapt what deems fit and drop what is not. Social cognitive theory bases that learning involves acquiring information of the world around us and processing this information where the information about the reality of the world around us is synthesized into symbols that will usually operate as points for potential references (Mahto, 2006).


A background of Albert Bandura shows that he studied in a high school that was alone in the place he came from and he managed to succeed. Based on this, it shows that as Bandura came up with this social learning theory, he was almost trying to reflect his own experiences. He also did summer jobs that presented him with an opportunity to meet many people. He learnt in a school with minimal resources but still succeeded immensely which may translate that he used his own will to learn to succeed despite the tough conditions that surrounded him.

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