Albert Bandura (1925 - )




Developed the Social Cognitive Theory : An individuals personality is molded by behavior, thought, and the environment




Stressed the importance of Observational Learning




Developed the concept of Self-Efficacy




Developed social learning theories of Aggressive behavior.



Conducted fundamental research on human aggression





Biography of Albert Bandura


Born in 1925 in Canada.


Before college, worked on Alaskan pipeline : Exposed Bandura to people with psychopathological symptoms.



Studied at British Columbia university in Vancouver,

A "fortuitous event" propelled him into psychology.


Earned PhD at University of Iowa in 1952



Has taught at Stanford University since 1953



Published Adolescent Aggression in 1959



Published Social foundations of Thought and Action , a book of his complete theories, in 1986.





Basics of Social Cognitive Theory


Bandura believes the environment plays a greater role in shaping our behavior than genetics.


Humans, according to Bandura, are largely a product of learning .


We learn through both :


Direct Experience


Observing Others


Secondly, humans have an enormous capacity for the use of symbolization which allows us to translate a transient experience into a guide for future action.


Language and other symbolic transformation give consistency and structure to the Self-System


The interaction of environment and self :


Reciprocal Determinism : the interaction of cognition, environmental events, and our own behavior which creates the human experience.



Reciprocal Determinism


Although our behavior is largely shaped by our environment, our behavior can affect the environment, which in turn can affect our cognitions, which in turn affect our behavior , ..



Behavior A function of cognition and the environment


Cognition Helps affect which environmental events we will attend, and the value we place upon those events.


Cognition is formed by the interaction of behavior and the enviroment.


An Example of Reciprocal Determinism :


Child asks father for cookie .


From Fathers perspective, Child's request is an environmental event.


Behavioral Options : Give Child Cookie, Don't give child cookie.


Cognitions which drive behavior in one direction or another :


If I give child cookie, she will stop asking for cookie, making environment a nicer place right now.


If I give her a cookie now, she will be more likely to ask me for cookies in the future, so therefore I will not give her a cookie now, in hopes of reducing future cookie asking behavior.


As a result of one of the two above cognitions, the father will choose one of the two behavioral options, and this behavior will have some affect on the environment :


The child will stop asking for cookie or continue to ask for a cookie.


Now, the father can evaluate his behavior with respect to how he has affected the environment

Chance Encounters and Fortuitous Events



Bandura believes strongly in the basic flexibility and adaptability of people.


Sometimes, unplanned events can create great changes in our life.


Chance Encounter : An unintended meeting of persons unfamiliar to each other.


Chance encounters make future human behavior difficult to predict.


Fortuitous Event : An environmental experience that is unexpected and unintended.


Bandura noted two fortuitous events in his life :


One, his going to school early in the morning led him to enroll in a psychology class.


His wife's older sister pushed him toward his cousin and told him " For the love of Pete, kiss her, will ya !" Bandura felt his marriage helped drive his ambition and future studies.


The Self System



Acts upon both the environment and behavior.


Bandura developed the Self System to help explain consistency in human behavior.



The self-system is the set of cognitive structures that involve perception, evaluation, and regulation of behavior.


The Self-System allows us to evaluate our own behavior in terms of previous experience and anticipated future consequences.


Based upon this evaluation, we then exercise some control over our behavior, or self-regulation.


Self Regulation


Bandura believes we use both reactive and proactive strategies to regulate our behavior


When humans set a goal state they wish to achieve (promotion, graduation, vacation) they reactively try to accomplish that goal.



After they have reacted, and achieved that particular goal state, then they can proactively set a new goal for themselves.



Additionally, Self-Regulation can be external or internal in nature.


External Factors affecting self-regulation : Societal Standards, external rewards, support from others


Internal Factors Affecting Self-Regulation


Bandura has identified three major factors which contribute to internal self-regulation



Self-Observation : We regulate our behavior by monitoring our own performance and adjusting our behavior accordingly. The self-observed factors depend partially on the environment :


In mastery situations, we pay attention to quality, quantity, speed, and originality.


In interpersonal situations, we pay more attention to sociability and morality of behavior.


Judgmental Process : A subjective evaluation of the consequences of our behavior. Many ways to make these judgments :


Personal Standards : evaluate our performance without comparing it to others.


Standard of Reference: Comparing our performance to the performance of others, or to a "norm" (an external standard)


Judgmental Process (continued)


Finally, our judgments are affected by the value we place on a task or skill.


Values help to determine where and how we focus our efforts.



Finally, our self-regulatory processes are affected by Performance Attribution, which is how we explain success and failure in our life.


Internal attributions of success will lead to extended effort in times of difficulty, while external attributions can lead to



Affective Self-Reaction : We provide self-reinforcement or self-punishment depending upon our standards and our behavior.


Affective Self-reaction helps show how cognitions help drive behavior and why human behavior is not solely a function of our environment.




When do we activate and deactivate Self-Regulatory Processes ?


Self-Regulation is not automatic, it must be triggered by some standard violation.


After an individual has adopted social and moral standards of conduct, we activate self-regulation

mechanisms when we violate either :


1. Social Sanctions : people fear social censure if their behavior violates expected societal norms.


2. Internalized Self-Sanctions : Individual does not want to violate personal standards because of self-punishment


This process is referred to as Selective Activation


Disabling our Self-Regulatory Mechanisms


If the situation is ambiguous (we cant decide whether our behavior violates standards or not), this may result in a disengagement of Internal Control.


This allows us to engage in morally or socially questionable behavior without self-reproach.


Four ways to attempt this disengagement :


One : Redefine our behavior : moral justification or rationalization can allow us to see previously objectionable behavior in a positive light.


Two : Diffuse or displace responsibility : Reduce personal responsibility by making external attributions for behavior.


Three : Distort, minimize, or ignore adverse consequences of behavior. (What I did really wasnt that bad)


Four : Blame the victim



Comparing Freudian defense mechanisms, Adelerian safe guarding tendencies and Bandura's ideas of Self-regulation


Freudian Defense Mechanisms operate unconsciously and automatically to protect from anxiety.

Adlerian Safeguarding Tendencies operate automatically, but can be conscious or unconscious.


Bandura's Self-Regulation is consciously engaged or disengaged






How we act in a particular situation is partially dependent upon our cognitions concerning our ability to perform certain behaviors.


This judgment of behavioral ability is referred to as Self-Efficacy


Self-Efficacy : People's beliefs about their capabilities to exercise control over events that affect their lives.


4 Sources of Self-Efficacy


Mastery Experiences


Vicarious Experiences


Social Persuasion


Physiological and Emotional Stress


1. Mastery Experiences : Successful previous experience increases Self-Efficacy while previous failures can lower self-efficacy


The more difficult the task successfully completed, the greater the increase in Self-Efficacy


Singular tasks can increase Self-Efficacy to a greater degree than shared tasks.


Failure is most likely to decrease self-efficacy when we believe we pout forth our full effort.


Failure under conditions of high emotional distress will not effect self-efficacy as much as failure under normal stress conditions.


Failure after your self-efficacy is firmly established will have less of an adverse affect on self-efficacy than early failure.


Occasional failure has little affect on efficacy.


2. Vicarious Experiences


Social Modeling can affect self-efficacy.



When we see a successful model, our self-efficacy can be raised.


To the degree we feel that the model is similar to us, our self-efficacy can be affected.


Vicarious experiences may have more affect when failure is modeled, than when success is modeled.


3. Social Persuasion : Others can affect our self-efficacy to the degree we receive praise or insult for our completed behavior.


In order for social persuasion to affect self-efficacy. we must :


Believe the person who is offering the praise/punishment


The activity that we are trying the self-efficacy for must be one that the individual can behaviorally accomplish.


4. Physiological and Emotional Stress


Strong Emotions typically lowers performance for difficult tasks.


Strong Emotions typically raises performance for simple, repetitive tasks.


People allow their emotional state to affect their judgments of self-efficacy


Secondly, the realism of the source of the physiological arousal can affect performance:


If they know the arousal is realistic (driving on a ICY mountain road), driving performance may be increased.


If they know the arousal is not realistic (as in the case of phobias), performance may decrease.



Collective Efficacy



Refers to the confidence people have that their combined efforts can produce social change.


People control their lives though perceptions of both Self-Efficacy and Collective Efficacy


Bandura listed several factors in our modern world which work to undermine our collective efficacy.


The international economy indicates we can be affected by events that occur on other parts of the globe, giving us a sense of helplessness


Technology that we do not understand can reduce collective efficacy.


Layers of established Bureaucracy help to enforce the status quo and make social change difficult.


The scope and magnitude of human problems can be discouraging.



Two Major Learning Methods



Learning is central to Bandura's theory, as our self-efficacy is largely determined through mastery experiences and vicarious learning.


Bandura specified two types of Learning :


Enactive Learning : Learning reinforcement through reward and punishment.


Observational Learning : Learning through Modeling


Observational Learning


Watch someone perform a behavior.


Observe whether they are rewarded or punished for that behavior.


If rewarded, you will be more likely to model that behavior in a similar situation.


If punished, you will be less likely to model that behavior in a future similar situation.



More efficient than learning by trial and error,

Need only see a single instance before adopting a successfully modeled behavior.



Variables which Effect Modeling


We are more likely to model "high status" than "low status" individuals behavior. (attractiveness)


People who lack status, skill, or power are more likely to model other people's behavior.


Children model more than Adults

Novices model more than experts


The greater the value the observer places on the behavior, the more likely the behavior will be successfully modeled.


4 Cognitive Processes involved in Observational Learning :


Attention : Must be aware of the model


Representation : Abstract representation of the behavior must be possible in order to replicate it.


Behavioral Production: Must replicate the modeled behavior at some time


Motivation : Must have some desire to perform modeled behavior.


Enactive Learning


Learning that occurs when we personally perform some behavior and then observe the consequences connected to that behavior.


Results of a behavior can be : positive, negative, or not attended to.



Consequences of Results serve Three functions :


1. Impart information


2. Motivate future behavior


3. Reinforces present behavior



Dysfunctional Behavior



Dysfunctional behavior fits the Social Cognitive Theory of Bandura because the reciprocal determinism of environment, cognition, and behavior create maladaptive behavior, just as they can produce psychologically well adjusted behavior.


Bandura's Social Cognitive theory is best at explaining depressive reactions, phobias, and aggressive behavior.


Depressive Reactions


When people set their personal goals to high, and fall short, this failure can not only reduce feelings of self-efficacy, but can lead to depression. Bandura traces depression to the Self-Regulatory system.


Negative Self-Observations : depressed people believe themselves responsible for failure and other factors responsible for success.


The judgmental process of depressed individuals is flawed : Their personal standards may be unrealistically high. leading them to repeatedly experiencing failures.


The self-reactions of depressed people are qualitatively different from "normals". Hold themselves responsible for bad things in their life and are full of self-recrimination and self-blame.





A phobia is an irrational fear to an object. The individual knows that this fear is irrational, but that does not decrease the negative affect associated with the phobic object or situation.


Phobia's can be chronic if never faced. The nature of the phobia causes the person to avoid any situation which might involve exposure to phobic stimuli.


Phobias are often picked up through "observational learning"


Reciprocal Determinism helps to maintain phobic behavior.


To avoid phobic reactions, people with phobias will avoid any environment which contains phobic stimuli.


Their Cognitions about their phobic reactions causes them to engage on behaviors which only expose them to non-threatening environments.



Modern Treatment of Phobias



Systematic Desensitization : The most commonly used technique for reducing phobic reactions.

The patient is gradually exposed to more and more anxiety provoking phobic stimuli, so that they become accustomed to higher levels of phobic stimuli being associated with lower levels of adverse


Very Common Phobias


Agoraphobia : fear of open spaces : Causes people to live a reclusive life.


Fear of Flying

Fear of Heights : Though to have a genetic basis

Fear of Snakes : Again, possible genetic adaptive value

Fear of Spiders :

Fear of Elevators :


Modern techniques employ Virtual Reality Therapy as a way to increase the "realism" associated with systematic desensitization.




Bandura's Therapy


Psychological Maladjustment is due to the operation of the Social Cognitive learning principles, not due to childhood trauma, or sexual or aggressive impulses.


Maladaptive Behavior in individuals persist, because there is some reward associated with that behavior.


The ultimate goal of therapy is to aid and strengthen the human capacity for Self-Regulation


Three Levels of Treatment :


Induction of Change : Successful therapy will result in some behavioral change.


Generalization : The specific behavioral change produced by therapy will affect other related behaviors as well.


Maintenance : Are the behavioral changes produced by therapy transient or long lasting?



Bandura's Treatment Methods:


Overt or Vicarious Modeling : Have people observe similar or high status people successfully modeling the behavior to be adopted.

Covert or Cognitive Modeling : Modeling by visualization : Therapist has patient imagine modeling behavior before attempting it.


Enactive Mastery : Performing behaviors which provoke feelings of anxiety and worry.


Systematic Desensitization treatment can include all three of the above methods in an attempt to reduce the phobic reactions to a less debilitating level.


Bandura believes phobics are cured through Cognitive Mediation: By increasing their efficacy top deal with phobic situations, it raises their perceptions of self-efficacy when dealing with fear producing situations in the future.



Related Research based upon Albert Bandura's theories.


Observational Learning and Aggression


Bandura's most well known research were his "Bobo Doll" studies on Aggression.


Children, who were frustrated, had a chance to play with Bobo, an air filled clown punching bag.


When the children had just observed Bandura's confederate playing aggressively with the doll, and the model had been rewarded, they successfully modeled the aggressive behavior after only one observation


Bandura claims that aggressive models exist on all levels of society, and watching aggressive behavior which is rewarded can lead to the modeling of aggressive acts.


Aggressive models exist in the Family, in sub-cultures (gangs), in Mass Media, and in cultures.



Bandura's view of Humanity


Basically optimistic


Humans are extremely flexible and can rapidly adapt to new situations.


Humans are goal-directed (teleological)


Personal Standards give human behavior consistency.


Social Factors dominate over genetic factors.


Conscious though is more important than unconscious motivations because the self regulatory system is consciously engaged or disengaged.


Bandura believes that each individual is unique, due to the specifics of their own social cognitive learning experiences.