People and their social environments affect each other. The major insight of Social Learning Theory, the earliest version of Bandura’s theory, was that individuals can learn why and how to change their behavior vicariously, by observing what happens to other people who behave that way. Later, in Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), Bandura began to unpack what goes on in the minds of observers of behavior and its consequences, adding new constructs to his theory. The first and best-known of the new constructs is self-efficacy, the idea that an individual (through observation and perhaps trial and feedback) begins to believe that a behavior will result in good things, and that he or she is capable of taking the action if it is attempted. Over the years, SCT has been expanded further and further, and is now quite complex.
Two relatively recent additions to the theory have gotten a lot of attention in public health. First, SCT argues that individual actions change the environment, making it easier for the individual to repeat the action in the future, and easier for others to follow suit. A second major addition to the theory is that individuals have moral standards. Individuals monitor their behavior and regulate it to be consistent with their moral self-images because such consistency results in positive emotions. Violating a moral self-standard is uncomfortable; to avoid this discomfort, people sometimes use euphemistic terms to describe their actions (e.g., “fudged” instead of “cheated”), or say they weren’t solely responsible for an action, or dehumanize its victim. Finally, SCT has been extended beyond the individual level by incorporating ideas such as collective efficacy (i.e., that a group could be successful in a concerted effort).
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Outcome expectancies, Self-efficacy, Behavioral capability/skill, Observational learning/modeling, Reinforcement, Reciprocal determinism, Moral Agency/self-regulaton.
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University of Twente, Social Cognitive Theory