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Social Cognitive Theory


Social Cognitive Theory is one of the models that are used to explain the behavioral patterns of an individual. Developed in 1931 by Harold Brown and Edwin Holt, the relevance of the theory has increasingly become evident in our current society. According to Flower (2009), modern psychologists have been interested in explaining the relevance of the observed experience vis-à-vis the experience that a person went through. The scholar says that many people are quick to learn from the experiences of others. Instead of waiting to go through the same experience, they prefer seeing what happened to others and the outcome of such events in order to define their behavior. People will always avoid events that led to sad outcomes. They prefer following the footsteps of others who were successful in life. In this paper, the researcher will look at the relevance of social cognitive theory in defining one’s behavior.

Explanation of how we were Born Based on the Social Cognitive Theory

According to Nooteboom (2010), many scholars are always interested in determining how different sociological theories explain the way in which we were born. Social Cognitive Theory does not explain the processes involved in creation. This is the major thing that the researcher considers to be missing in the theory. It does not mention anything to do with how we were born, and neither does it focus on human origin. It only focuses on behavioral.

Personality Development

Social Cognitive Theory holds that personality development is influenced by the environmental factors such as experiences, media influences, and social interactions. Contrary to many beliefs that people learn through what they experience in life, this theory holds that personality development is affected by what people observe. As Flower (2009) notes, human beings naturally fear pain and suffering. People are always keen to observe what others go through when they decide to take a given path in life. When people realize that the path taken by others results into pain then they will be keen to avoid it.

This means that personality development depends a lot on what people observe. Media influences also play a major role in one’s personality development. This theory explains that when a person cannot learn from the immediate environment, he will try to learn from the available media instead. It is at this stage that the media plays an important role in one’s personality development. This may come in different contexts. It is at this stage that factors such as films that people are exposed to start influencing their behavioral patterns. The last option is always the need to go through a given experience in order to determine the possible outcome. This is taken when a person realizes that the existing experiences of others that can be emulated cannot lead him to what he seeks to achieve. As Nooteboom (2010) says, when this path is taken, one would be keen to learn very first in order to avoid being subjected to pain. These three factors define personality development.

Why the Researcher Chose Social Cognitive Theory

The researcher chose this theory because of the need to understand the role of the observed experiences in the development of personalities. Human beings are quick to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. As Bandura (2008) puts it, many people always avoid following the path that is completely unexplored. This is so because of the fear of uncertainty. Many people like to have a clear knowledge of what their actions or behavioral patterns may result into under various contexts. They are keen to avoid getting involved in things that may lead to their downfall. That is why they prefer observing what happens to others before following the same path. This theory explains personality development in the context of what people learn in the society through observation.

What the Researcher Likes About the Theory

The researcher likes the detailed approach of explaining personality development as given in this theory. The theory has taken a more practical approach in explaining the factors that influence the behavior of individuals in our society. Ayotte (2011) says that many scholars have insisted that the best approach to learn about something is to go through an experience. However, this theory explains that one must not necessarily be subjected to a given experience in order to learn. In fact, people learn better by observing the experiences that others go through. This is one of the best theories that explain how children develop their personality as they grow. They are keen to observe what is going on in the environment. They get to know what the society considers good and what should be avoided.

What the Researcher Dislikes About the Theory

This theory has not received serious criticism among the scholars because of its practical approach in explaining personality development. The researcher did not like the fact that the theory does not explain why some people would want to follow a path that brought harm to others. The theory explains that people are keen to follow actions that helped others succeed in life. However, Zhang (2005) notes that the statistics from World Health Organization shows that the number of smokers is on the rise. It would be interesting to know how this theory would justify this trend given that people know that smoking is harmful to their health. These abnormal trends are not clearly explained in this theory.

Summary of Journal Articles and How the Theory Improved Some Aspects of Mental Health

Social Cognitive Theory has attracted the attention of many scholars in the contemporary world. The article by Wood and Bandura (2008), focused on the role of this theory on mental development of children. During this important stage of development, children are keen to observe what the society considers as normal and acceptable. Their mental development will depend on the environment in which they are subjected to, as explained in the Social Cognitive Theory.

Children who are parented by drunkards may have problems in their life. They are forced to emulate individuals whose mental capacity is constantly influenced by intake of substances like alcohol and drugs. This means that what they consider normal, based on their observed experiences from these people, may be unacceptable in the society. To change that behavioral pattern, such a person will need to be subjected to a new experience that will help him unlearn the negatives.

The article by Flower (2005) focused on communication skills as an aspect of mental health development. The scholar states that communication plays an important role in mental health. People suffering from psychological problems can only be given the necessary support if they have the capacity to interact with their psychologists through effective communication. It is only through this that the psychologists will get to know what the mental problem could be and how it can be addressed in order to improve the patient’s condition. The scholar holds that the personality of an individual, which is based on the observed experiences, will influence his communication skills.

The article by Compeau and Higgins (2005) focuses on the perception of an individual towards various social factors that may influence their mental health. Consumption of hard drugs such as Cocaine and Marijuana may affect the mental capacity of an individual. When such an individual believes that the only way to succeed is to consume these drugs based on what he saw on others, then convincing him that the drug can be harmful may not be easy. Understanding these facts make it easy for a psychologist to find alternative ways of improving their mental health.


Social Cognitive Theory has widely been used in the contemporary world to help explain the factors that shape a person’s personality. The theory explains that personality of an individual is largely based on what is observed. Through observation, an individual is able to know the actions that may have painful outcomes and those that will have happy endings.


Ayotte, B. (2011). Using the Social Cognitive Theory to Investigate Physical Activity in Middle –Aged and Older Married Couples. New York: Cengage. Web.

Compeau, D. & Higgins, C. (2005). Application of Social Cognitive Theory to Training for Computer Skills. Information Systems Research, 6(2), 118-143. Web.

Flower, L. (2005). The Construction of Negotiated Meaning: A Social Cognitive Theory of Writing. College Composition and Communication, 46 (1), 124-130. Web.

Flower, L. (2009). The construction of negotiated meaning: A social cognitive theory of writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press. Web.

Nooteboom, B. (2010). A cognitive theory of the firm: Learning, governance and dynamic capabilities. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Web.

Wood, R. & Bandura, A. (2008). Social Cognitive Theory of Organizational Management. The Academy of Management Review, 14 (3), 361-384. Web.

Zhang, Y. (2005). Using social cognitive theory to model health behaviors among Chinese children. New Jersey: Wiley. Web.

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