An Overview of Social Cognitive Theory
Psychologist Albert Bandura developed social cognitive theory. The theory is a learning model based on the premise that people learn from others through observation. These learned behaviors are crucial, as they may be central to the personality of an individual. Even though the external environment within which someone grows contributes to his or her behavior, the individual person is equally important. Therefore, people not only learn by observing others but are also influenced through the environment, behavior and cognition. In the same way, the environment in which one grows has a bearing on behavior especially in later stages in life. According to this theory, people learn to reciprocate behavior, which they hope would result into positive reinforcement. Through self-efficacy, people master to step back, self-regulate, observe and change behavioral patterns.
Assumptions of Social Cognitive Theory
The social cognitive theory explains how people acquire certain behaviors with intervention strategies. When evaluating behavior, certain factors come into play, including the environment, people and behavior. This theory gives a guide for designing, evaluating and implementing programs.
In this context, the environment refers to any factors, which are likely to affect the behavior of an individual. Thus, social and physical environments do exist and both play a major role in molding the behavior of a person. Social environment denotes the people around like family members, workmates, neighbors, and friends. On the other hand, physical environment could refer to the ambient temperature, the size of the room, or the presence of specific foodstuffs. Therefore, environment and situation give a good framework to aid the understanding of behavior. In this case, situation is the mental representation of the environment, which may have effects on someone’s behavior. It is simpler a person’s perception of the time, activity, lace, physical features and time.
Notably, behavior, people and the environment are in a constant mode of influencing each other. Behavior does not only stem from the environment and the person, just as the environment is not just a product of behavior and the person. Through the environment, models of behavior emerge. Notably, observational learning happens when an individual watches another person’s actions and the reinforcement that follows.
Concepts within SCT
The social cognitive theory incorporates various discrete ideas, sub processes and concepts into a complete framework that helps in the understanding of human functioning. In this section, we shall discuss some of these concepts.
The first one is observational learning. The foundation of this concept is that people learn by observing what others are doing. This is sometimes described as modeling since learning is about watching the behavior and outcomes of models within the environment. Live demonstrations of behavior or a skill by a teacher is a typical example of modeling. Other forms of modeling include video or audio recording, and verbal or written descriptions.
Another concept is outcome expectations. This refers to individual’s view about consequences to ensure that people perform a particular behavior. Such beliefs form inactively through experience and through observing others. In addition, perceived self-efficacy is an important concept with Social Cognitive Theory. It denotes a person’s beliefs on whether they can achieve some level of success in a particular task before hand. For example, students with high self-efficacy are more confident about excelling in their exams as compared to those with low levels of self-efficacy.
Limitations of social cognitive theory
The first limitation of SCT is that it has a loose structure. Critics of this theory argue that the model is so broad that it lacks a unifying structure. Moreover, human beings are dynamic in nature, which makes it hard to implement the theory completely. Thus, implementation is likely to narrow down to one or two concepts, like self-efficacy.
Secondly, SCT minimizes emotional response s. While Albert Bandura holds that people learn behavior, evolutionary theorists argue that some behaviors emanate from emotional responses, which depend on biological factors, which are determined by evolution with minimal or no correlation with observation or condition.
Lastly, social cognitive theory does not put into consideration the impact of a person’s hormones on behavior. Since hormones can influence one’s decision-making power, they can as well change their behavior. Moreover, SCT ignores genetic factors, which could lead to behavioral disparities in people.
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