Albert Bandura

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Social Cognitive Theory*
Originator of Theory:
Albert Bandura, Ph.D. Bandura obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1952. In 1953, Bandura was offered a position at Standford University, and he is still there on faculty today. Approximate Year of Origin: The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) stemmed from the Social Learning Theory (SLT), which has a rich historical background dating back to the late 1800's. Albert Bandura first began publishing his work on SLT in the early 1960's. In 1986, Bandura officially launched the SCT with his book Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Circumstances that led to the development of the Theory: The SCT has its origins in the discipline of psychology, with its early foundation being laid by behavioral and social psychologists. The SLT evolved under the umbrella of behaviorism, which is a cluster of psychological theories intended to explain why people and animals behave the way that they do. Behaviorism, introduced by John Watson in 1913, took an extremely mechanistic approach to understanding human behavior. According to Watson, behavior could be explained in terms of observable acts that could be described by stimulus-response sequences (Crosbie-Brunett and Lewis, 1993; Thomas, 1990). Also central to behaviorist study was the notion that contiguity between stimulus and response determined the likelihood that learning would occur. Since this time, the stimulus-response pathway has been a point of debate among behaviorists. This debate stems over whether there exists some mediating factor between stimulus and response that regulates behavior. Opinions on this have been divided over whether behavior is primarily governed consequently - by rewards or punishments, or antecedently - through feedback. Various mediating variables have been proposed throughout the history of behaviorism, including William James' habit (later adopted by Watson), Freud's instinct, and Tolman's cognitions (Woodward,1982). Social psychologists also made important contributions to the development of the SLT (Crosbie-Brunett and Lewis, 1993). The earliest contribution to learning theory was from William James in 1890, whose notion of the 'social self' laid the foundation for the modern SLT tenet of the interaction between personal factors and the environment. This work was further developed by the work of Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), who extended Gestaltist's field theory by initiating a shift in psychology from a focus on the individual to a focus on processes between individuals (Crosbie-Brunett and Lewis, 1993). Personality theorist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) introduced several concepts that are upheld in the present day SLT. Adler posited that a person's behavior is purposeful and motivated by a pursuit of goals. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of one's perception of, and attitude toward, the environment as significant influences on behavior. In addition, his view that a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are transactions with one's physical and social surroundings is a precursor to reciprocal determinism (Crosbie-Brunett and Lewis, 1993). In the 1930's, Tolman promoted the idea that unobservable variables (or cognitions) played a mediating role between stimulus and response (Tolman, 1932) and introduced the term expectancy. Thus, with the introduction of cognitions as a driving force behind behavior, combined with the important role of the environment, the three domains of the SLT were articulated at this time. However, it was not until the 1950's that all three domains were integrated into a comprehensive SLT. The Social Learning Theory (SLT) was officially launched in 1941 with Miller and Dollard's publication of Social Learning and Imitation. Their SLT incorporated the principles of learning: reinforcement, punishment, extinction, and imitation of models. Their book was written to explain how animals and humans model observed behaviors, which then became learned...
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