Social Cognitive Theory

This theory, thanks to Albert Bandura and others, tells us it's not just about rewards and punishments when we learn. It's also about our thoughts and learning from watching others. We sometimes call it "social learning theory."

Here's the main idea: When we do something, we're influenced by what happens afterward. If something good follows, we're likely to do it again. If something bad happens, we'll probably stop.

Now, both this theory and the one we talked about earlier, operant conditioning, believe that our environment controls our behavior. But they look at it differently.

Operant conditioning says the environment makes us do things. If the environment changes, our behavior changes. For example, if the office layout changes, people might work differently.

Social cognitive theory says it's a two-way street. Our behavior can also change the environment. So, our actions, our environment, and what's inside our heads (like our skills, values, and thoughts) all affect each other. We call this "reciprocal determinism."

Another interesting part of this theory is how we learn from others. There are three main ways:

This theory is important for things like leadership and training because it helps us understand how we learn from others and how we control our own actions.

There's also something called "self-efficacy." This is like believing in yourself to do something specific. It's different from self-esteem, which is more about how you feel about yourself in general.

Self-efficacy has three parts:

Self-efficacy can predict how well you'll do in certain tasks. If you believe you can do something, you're more likely to succeed. It also makes you more likely to keep trying even when things get tough. So, this theory helps us understand how our beliefs about our abilities affect what we can achieve.

Social cognitive theory, also known as social learning theory. It came about because people realized we needed to understand how thoughts affect behavior. This theory was a reaction to another theory called operant conditioning, which didn't focus on thinking processes or unobservable psychological functions.

Behavior and Consequences According to social cognitive theory, what we do is influenced by what happens after we do it. If we get rewarded for something, we're more likely to do it again. If we get punished, we tend to stop that behavior. This idea is central to both operant conditioning and social cognitive theory.

Environmental Control In operant conditioning, the environment completely controls our behavior. It provides cues for actions and rewards for behavior. If the environment changes, behavior changes too. But this means we could lose some freedom and dignity if the environment is engineered.

Reciprocal Determinism In social cognitive theory, it's a two-way street. Our behavior affects the environment, and the environment influences our behavior. Personal factors like our skills, values, and physical abilities also play a part. This interaction is called reciprocal determinism.

Learning from Others Social cognitive theory highlights the importance of different processes in understanding our behavior:

1. Vicarious Learning (Imitative Learning): We learn by watching others. When we see someone do something and notice what happens as a result, we learn from that. This type of learning is especially helpful when making mistakes can be costly or dangerous.

2. Symbolic Learning: We use symbols like words, images, or mental pictures to help us learn. Symbols let us understand and represent events, communicate across time and space, and plan things out. Symbols are also essential for effective imitative learning.

3. Self-Regulation: We have the ability to control our own behavior. We can create environmental rewards or punishments for ourselves. For instance, if we want to study better, we can set up a quiet study space, remove distractions, and record our study hours to meet daily goals.

Changing Environment Social cognitive theory shows how we can change our surroundings, both physically and mentally. For example, in one study, employees who learned self-regulatory skills to assess their problems, set goals, and reward or punish themselves for goal achievement had better attendance. This was especially true for employees who believed in themselves.

Modeling and Effective Role Models This theory helps us understand how we learn from others, both when they show us what to do and when they don't. Effective role models can help us learn desirable behaviors. Modeling usually involves active participation, allowing us to observe and practice new skills while receiving feedback.

Self-Efficacy One crucial concept in this theory is self-efficacy. It's like believing in your own ability to do something specific, not just having general self-esteem. Self-efficacy has three aspects: magnitude (how hard you think a task is), strength (how confident you feel about your ability), and generality (whether you believe you can do it in different situations).

Self-efficacy is important because it predicts how well you'll do in a specific task. If you believe you can do something, you're more likely to succeed. Learning from past performance helps, but your belief in your ability is an even better predictor of your future performance.

Self-efficacy can be acquired through:

1. Enactive Mastery: Repeatedly performing or practicing a task.

2. Vicarious Experience: Observing others, especially when the model is similar to you and clearly visible.

3. Verbal Persuasion: Though less effective than practice or modeling, it can still be an important source of efficacy information, especially from credible sources.

4. Perceptions of Physiological State: Your perceptions can be influenced by your momentary levels of arousal, just like athletes' confidence in their readiness.

Self-efficacy is self-reinforcing; it influences your activities, the skills you're willing to learn, the effort you put in, and your persistence when you face difficulties. People with high self-efficacy tend to engage in more task-related activities and are more persistent, which helps them gain more mastery experiences and boosts their self-efficacy further.

Relevance of Self-Efficacy Self-efficacy is important in various situations, from employee selection and training to vocational counseling. Employees with high self-efficacy tend to respond positively to HR programs like performance evaluations, financial incentives, and promotions.

This theory helps us understand how our beliefs about our abilities affect what we can achieve.