Albert Bandura: Behaviorist

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Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925 in the small farming community of Mundare, Canada. He was educated in a small school with minimal resources, yet a remarkable success rate. He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of British Colombia in 1949. Bandura went on to the University of Iowa, where he received his Ph.D. in 1952. It was there that he came under the influence of the behaviorist tradition and learning theory. He has since developed his social learning or cognitive theory and his ideas of observational learning and modeling, for which he made a place for himself in the history of Psychology. Yet his theory is still related to behaviorism because it addresses the element of learning (attention, memory, drive) that are included in both behavioral and social theories.

“Behaviorism is the view that only observable, overt activities that can be measured scientifically should be studied by Psychology. Behaviorists believe that internal events, such as thoughts, images, feelings, and intentions are immeasurable, and so should not be part of Psychology” (Baron, 1998, p.7). The scientific or experimental methods are ways in which we are able to measure such observable activities. The scientific method involves the construction of theories for explaining various events or processes. The theories contain predictions, or hypotheses that are then tested by further research and observation. The theory is then accepted only if the new observations are consistent with the theory. The experimental method is a research method in which one or more variables are manipulated (called the independent variable) in order to see the effects it has on another variable (the dependent variable). In summary, it says that one’s environment causes one’s behavior.

Bandura found this theory to be true, but also added that behavior causes environment as well.
In the argument over whether the person or the situation is most responsible for the behavior, Bandura argues for reciprocal determinism, in which a person’s behavior is based on an evaluation of the situation. That behavior changes the situation, requiring a new evaluation and a new behavior decision, and so on. The points of this analysis are first, that we cannot easily separate the effects on behavior of person and situation, and second, that the individual’s own behavior is a contributor to the situation, which in turn affects his or her behavior. This theory is, of course, more interest in how the person affects behavior. Bandura argues that we can best conceive personality as a set of internal evaluating and interpretation processes (social learning person variables) that mediate our interaction with the outside world, and indeed with our own inner thoughts and feelings. Such variables include competency and self-efficacy, self-regulatory systems and plans, subjective values, encoding strategies and personal constructs, and expectancies. It is important to understand that they are interdependent processes: Changes in any one may have effects on the others. (Bandura and Mischel)

Behaviorism was important to Bandura in that its weaknesses became his research
foundation. Bandura believed that behaviorism limited the possibilities in a laboratory setting because such settings deal with direct learning, where a learner responds to the observer. Bandura proposed that complex behaviors are affected by behavior, the environment, and internal events that influence perceptions and actions. “Since the late 1960’s, behaviorism has given the way to the “cognitive revolution,” of which Bandura is considered a part. Cognitive psychology retains the experimentally-oriented flavor of behaviorism, without artificially restraining the researcher to external behaviors, when the mental life if clients and subjects is so obviously important” (Boeree, 1998, p.6).

As Bandura began to...
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