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Social Cognitive Theory: How We Learn From the Behavior of Others

Social Cognitive Theory: How We Learn From the Behavior of Others
Social cognitive theory, developed by Albert Bandura, is a learning theory that focuses on observational learning, modeling, and self-efficacy.


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Social Cognitive Theory

Social Cognitive Theory

It is a learning theory developed by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura in the 60s/70s and provides an understanding of how people get influenced and in turn influence their environment.

It delves into self-learning through observation and modelling, of desirable or undesirable behaviours, and then acting them out on their own.




Observational Learning

Behaviourist B.F. Skinner had theorized that learning can only be achieved by individual action.

Social Cognitive Theory, however, states that an individual can learn by observing and imitating models, grasping and reproducing the learning much faster.



Four Processes Of Observational Learning

  • Attentional: When people observe their model.
  • Retention: When the observed information is remembered.
  • Production: When the observed information is recalled and reconstructed later, producing a variation of the learned model.
  • Motivational: Depending on the feedback and the outcome, the individual is motivated or demotivated to produce the same.



Models and Self- Efficacy

Models become a source of inspiration, motivation and are enablers of self-learning. Successful outcomes increase the observer’s self-efficacy and impacts one’s personal growth and change. This positive self-belief can make all the difference in the course of life of the individual.

Example: TV sitcoms in India promoted gender equality and raised women’s status through gripping stories, and made the masses understand the message to emulate.




Learning theories

Learning theories develop hypotheses that describe how learning takes place.

The major theories of learning are the following: 

  • behaviorist theories 
  • co...

Behaviorism theories

The behaviorist perspectives of learning originated in the early 1900s. The main idea of behaviorism is that learning consists of a change in behavior because of obtaining, strengthening and applying associations between input from the world, and observations of the individual.

  • Learning is reinforced by exercise and repetition, followed by a positive reward.
  • Learning takes place when the right parts of more complex behavior are rewarded.

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology started in the late 1950s and contributed to the move away from behaviorism.

  • Instead of viewing people as collections of responses to external stimuli, people are viewed as information processors.
  • Cognitive psychology was influenced by the computer that processes information, that became analogous to the human mind.
  • Cognitive psychology understands learning as absorbing knowledge, acting on it, and storing it in memory.
  • The main teaching methods are lecturing and reading textbooks, where the learner receives knowledge passively.

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The first views on motivation

The first views on motivation
  • At first, psychologist William James thought that only the initial act was conscious, thereafter behaviour was a spontaneous cascade of habits. He suggested we struggle with motivation when ...

Mathematics of motivation

When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and formulated their theories as mathematical formulas.

  • The Drive x Habit Theory. Clark Hull's formula was sEr = D x sHr, which states that excitatory tendency (E) is the result of the drive (D) combined with the habit (H). The drive is nonspecific, such as hunger or thirst. The habit, however, depends on the stimulus (s) and response (r). But the theory turned out to be wrong and even opposite in many cases. 
  • Expectation x Value Theory. Drawing on ideas in economics and game theory, Edward Tolman and Kurt Lewis formulated an alternative account by evaluating motivation based on expectations. Tolman expressed the ideas as the mathematical formula: Subjective Expected Utility = Probability1 * Utility1 + P2U2 + P3U3 + … where subjective expected utility of an action equalled the motivation to act. But, if you expect a reward, why act and not simply passively wait for the expected reward? 

Motivation as change

Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.

Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had undergone a "paradigm shift", where motivation couldn't be seen as how actions get started, but how the organism decides to change its behaviour from one thing to another.

The Impostor Syndrome

The Impostor Syndrome

It is the feeling that you are not worthy of your designation, title, position or success.

Your accomplishments may be due to luck or effort, but you feel you lack the talent or skill ...

The Reality of Impostor Syndrome

  • The impostor syndrome is like a nagging feeling that our success might be due to luck, good timing, or even a computer error.
  • It makes us think we have done nothing, and that we secretly are a fraud for taking undue credit.
  • The person suffering from an impostor syndrome lives in fear that soon the 'secret' about his true nature will be uncovered.

The Impostor Syndrome: Self-Efficacy Is The Antidote

The antidote to the impostor syndrome is self-efficacy, which is about learning one's own value.

Self-efficacy is described as a perceived ability to succeed at a particular task. It means having rock-solid confidence, a supercharged belief in your ability.