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SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY

Explanation of behavioral patterns


History and Orientation
In 1941 Miller and Dollard proposed the theory of social learning. In 1963 Bandura and Walters
broadened the social learning theory with the principles of observational learning and vicarious
reinforcement. Bandura provided his concept of self-efficacy in 1977, while he refuted the traditional
learning theory for understanding learning.
The Social Cognitive Theory is relevant to health communication. First, the theory deals with cognitive,
emotional aspects and aspects of behavior for understanding behavioral change. Second, the concepts of
the SCT provide ways for new behavioral research in health education. Finally, ideas for other theoretical
areas such as psychology are welcome to provide new insights and understanding.
Core Assumptions and Statements
The social cognitive theory explains how people acquire and maintain certain behavioral patterns,
while also providing the basis for intervention strategies (Bandura, 1997). Evaluating behavioral change
depends on the factors: environment, people and behavior. SCT provides a framework for designing,
implementing and evaluating programs.
Environment refers to the factors that can affect a persons behavior. There are social and physical
environments.
Social environment include family members, friends and colleagues.
Physical environment is the size of a room, the ambient temperature or the availability of certain
foods.
Environment and situation provide the framework for understanding behavior (Parraga, 1990).
The situation refers to the cognitive or mental representations of the environment that may affect a
persons behavior.
The situation is a persons perception of the lace, time, physical features and activity (Glanz et al,
2002).
The three factors environment, people and behavior are constantly influencing each other.
Behavior is not simply the result of the environment and the person, just as the environment is not simply
the result of the person and behavior (Glanz et al, 2002).
The environment provides models for behavior.
Observational learning occurs when a person watches the actions of another person and the
reinforcements that the person receives (Bandura, 1997).
The concept of behavior can be viewed in many ways. Behavioral capability means that if a person is to
perform a behavior he must know what the behavior is and have the skills to perform it.
Concepts of the Social Cognitive Theory
Source: Glanz et al, 2002, p169.
Environment: Factors physically external to the person; Provides opportunities and social support
Situation: Perception of the environment; correct misperceptions and promote healthful forms
Behavioral capability: Knowledge and skill to perform a given behavior; promote mastery learning
through skills training
Expectations: Anticipatory outcomes of a behavior; Model positive outcomes of healthful behavior

Expectancies: The values that the person places on a given outcome, incentives; Present outcomes of
change that have functional meaning
Self-control: Personal regulation of goal-directed behavior or performance; Provide opportunities for selfmonitoring, goal setting, problem solving, and self-reward
Observational learning: Behavioral acquisition that occurs by watching the actions and outcomes of
others behavior; Include credible role models of the targeted behavior
Reinforcements: Responses to a persons behavior that increase or decrease the likelihood of
reoccurrence; Promote self-initiated rewards and incentives
Self-efficacy: The persons confidence in performing a particular behavior; Approach behavioral change
in small steps to ensure success
Emotional coping responses: Strategies or tactics that are used by a person to deal with emotional
stimuli; provide training in problem solving and stress management
Reciprocal determinism: The dynamic interaction of the person, the behavior, and the environment in
which the behavior is performed; consider multiple avenues to behavioral change, including
environmental, skill, and personal change.
Conceptual Model

Source: Pajares (2002). Overview of social cognitive theory and of self-efficacy. 12-8-04.
From http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/eff.html.
Favorite Methods
Surveys, experiments and quasi-experiments are used. See for therapeutical techniques Bandura (1997)
and Glanze et al (2002)
Scope and Application
The Social Cognitive Theory is relevant for designing health education and health behavior programs.
This theory explains how people acquire and maintain certain behavioral patterns. The theory can also be
used for providing the basis for intervention strategies
Example
A project was started to prevent and reduce alcohol use among students in grades 6 till 12 (ages 11-13).
The program took three years and was based on behavioral health curricula, parental involvement and
community task force activities. The conclusion was that students were less likely to say they drank
alcohol than others who did not join the program. With observational learning, negative expectancies
about alcohol use and increased behavioral capability to communicate with parents the results were
obtained. However, at the end of the 10th grade the differences were no longer significant.
A new program in the 11th grade was started in which reduced access to alcohol and the change of
community norms to alcohol use for high-school age students were key elements. With (1) community
attention (2) parental education (3) support of alcohol free events (4) media projects to dont provide

alcohol and (5) classroom discussions the program started. After the 12 th grade a significant result
showed that the alcohol use decreased. Furthermore, the access to alcohol was reduced and the parental
norms were less accepting of teen alcohol use at the end of the study.
The outcomes of the SCT show that actions of the community level to change these constructs resulted in
less drinking among teens. The community level appears to have success in changing the environment
and expectancies to alcohol use by reducing teen access to alcohol, changing norms and reducing
alcohol use among high school students.
Example form Glanz et al, 2002, p 176-177 (summarized)
References
Key publications
Glanz, K., Rimer, B.K. & Lewis, F.M. (2002). Health Behavior and Health Education. Theory, Research
and Practice. San Fransisco: Wiley & Sons.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentive perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52,
1-26.
Parraga, I.M. (1990). Determinants of Food Consumption. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 90:
661-663.
Bandura, A. (Ed.) (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and
differentiation. Psychology Review, 106, 676-713.
Graham, S., & Weiner, B. (1996). Theories and principles of motivation. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee
(Eds.). Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 63-84). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
Pajares, F., & Schunk, D. H. (2001). Self-beliefs and school success: Self-efficacy, self-concept, and
school achievement. In R. Riding & S. Rayner (Eds.), Self-perception (pp. 239-266). London: Ablex
Publishing.
Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2002). The development of academic self-efficacy. In A. Wigfield & J. Eccles
(Eds.),Development of achievement motivation (pp. 16-31). San Diego: Academic Press.
Bandura, A. & Walters, R.H. (1963). Social Learning and Personality Development. New York: Holt,
Rinehart & Winston.
Miller, N.E. & Dollard, J. (1941). Social Learning and Imitation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
See Interpersonal Communication and Relations, Health Communication.