The Social-Cognitive Persoective

by Jacob Feliciano


Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925 in Alberta, Canada. He is famous for his "Social Cognitive Theory". He believed that people acquire their behaviors through the observation of others and then imitate what they observe.

Reciprocal Determinism

According to psychologist Albert Bandura, reciprocal determinism is a model composed of three factors that influence behavior: the environment, the individual, and the behavior itself.

Ex: suppose a motorist is cut off by another motorist on the road. The first motorist may think angering thoughts, such as "I'm going to teach that guy a lesson." These thoughts or cognitions increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior (e.g., cutting in front of the other motorist). The aggressive behavior, in turn, affects the social environment (the other motorist responds aggressively). The other motorist's actions then lead the first to have even more angering thoughts ("I can't let him get away with that!"), which, in turn, lead to more aggressive behavior. This vicious cycle of escalating aggressive behavior and angering thoughts may lead to an incident of road rage, which can have tragic consequences.


the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.

Ex:people with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

The Bobo Doll Experiment

A lab experiment was used, in which the independent variable (type of model) was manipulated in three conditions:

  • Aggressive model shown to 24 children
  • Non-aggressive model shown to 24 children
  • No model shown (control condition) - 24 children


• Children who observed the aggressive model made far more imitative aggressive responses than those who were in the non-aggressive or control groups.

• There was more partial and non-imitative aggression among those children who has observed aggressive behavior, although the difference for non-imitative aggression was small.

• The girls in the aggressive model condition also showed more physical aggressive responses if the model was male but more verbal aggressive responses if the model was female. However, the exception to this general pattern was the observation of how often they punched Bobo, and in this case the effects of gender were reversed.

• Boys were more likely to imitate same-sex models than girls. The evidence for girls imitating same-sex models is not strong.

• Boys imitated more physically aggressive acts than girls. There was little difference in the verbal aggression between boys and girls.


The situation involves the child and an adult model, which is a very limited social situation and there is no interaction between the child and the model at any point; certainly the child has no chance to influence the model in any way. Also the model and the child are strangers. This, of course, is quite unlike 'normal' modeling which often takes place within the family.

Learned Helplessness

  1. Learned helplessness is a behavior in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable.

  2. Ex:Let's say that a man with a spouse who has a personality disorder notices that on the last few occasions that he returned home from work punctually and complemented her appearance that she treated him very well, fussed over him and paid attention to his needs. He tells himself that coming home early "seems to be working".The next day he decides to surprise her by coming home an extra 2 hours early. Excited at his plan, he arrives home only to discover her with another man. His model for how his world works is devastated. He no longer has a sense of control over his wellbeing and personal security. He may tell himself "I'm so stupid!"

    In reality his wife's unfaithfulness had nothing to do with him. It was rooted in her need for attention and her low self-worth. An opportunity arose when a stranger showed an interest in her and she succumbed. Along with the thrill, she has been feeling some guilt over her behavior and fear of getting caught and has sub-consciously over-compensated by being extra nice to her husband when he comes home.In this example, the husband's behavior had no influence or control over the situation. However, in an attempt to rationalize what happened, he may begin to review all the things he has done to motivate his wife to hurt him so much. He is making the mistake of looking at himself to explain the random actions of his wife. He is learning to be helpless.