Albert Bandura

Centuries ago, philosophers began pondering about learning.  Rationalists believed learning was an innate process gained through reason and thought.  Empiricists believed that knowledge cannot exist without experience gained from the environment and senses.  Then psychology became a science and behaviorists, such as Sigmund Freud, came along and declared that learning results from experience in the world, but the internal mental processes were not necessary for learning to occur (Foster, 2011).  Behaviorist theories began to receive discreditation as theories of learning because of the inability to account for the complexities of human thought and behavior (Foster, 2011).  New theories evolved combining the original philosophical ideas, behaviorist theories, and scientific research and data forming a new trend in psychology: Cognitive Psychology.  Albert Bandura is a renowned cognitive psychologist who made many vital contributions to cognitive psychology.  His theories have proven useful in the educational system yesterday, today, and will continue to be utilized and further developed tomorrow.


             Bandura had a primary focus in the causes of human behavior, particularly the influences of behavior (Foster, 2006).  Although he agreed that behavior was influenced through environment, he felt that environment did not do justice to the intricacy of human behavior (McLeod, 2011).  Bandura believed that cognitive processes are vital in the decisions of demonstrating certain behavior because individuals think about the relationship between behavior and consequence (McLeod, 2011).  Additionally, he posits that people learn from one another through observation and imitation (Foster, 2011), known as reciprocal determinism which means the world and behavior cause each other (McLeod, 2011).  These processes allow for the imitation of a model and the identification among individuals which develop personality in humans (McLeod, 2011).

Models and concepts

            Banduras earliest research was led by his curiosity of aggression in adolescents.  Through the use of the infamous Bobo doll experiment, he was able to prove that behaviorist theories, such as Sigmund Freud’s, were limited (Foster, 2011).  Bandura exposed children to a model who used aggressive behavior towards towards the bobo doll (McLeod, 2011).  When the children were placed in a room with a bobo doll, they tended to imitate similar aggressiveness towards the doll, proving that behavior was learned through observation and not just an innate process (McLeod, 2011).  This meant that there was memory recall in behavior which requires cognitive processes in the brain as thought was used to demonstrate and observed action (Foster, 2011).  Banduras research on aggression paved the foundation of the social – cognitive theory which is the basis of the social learning theory (McLeod, 2011).  The social – cognitive theory emphasize how factors such as cognition, behavior, and environment all interact with personal factors to determine motivation and behavior in an individual(Foster, 2011).

Bandura’s early research on observation and social modeling led him to wonder about the motivational behavior, or self-efficacy.  Self – efficacy is an individual’s belief, or confidence in his or her ability to execute a certain behavior (Foster, 2011).  The self – efficacy theory states that individuals are more likely to display behavior that is more personally satisfying than not (McLeod, 2011).  Through observation, imprinting occurs which may be recalled at a later time for the imitation of the observed behavior (McLeod, 2011).  During the process of recall, thought processes occur which include social acceptance and consequence of the behavior.  Bandura found that individuals behave to seek approval giving internal satisfaction to increase the likelihood of repetitive behavior(McLeod, 2011).

Combining his research on aggression with his self – efficacy research, Bandura changed his social – cognitive theory to the social – learning theory which posits that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context through observation of the behavior and its consequences (McLeod, 2011).  Since learning involves making decisions based on recall of observations, it is not necessary for a behavior change to occur in order for learning to occur (McLeod, 2011).  Reinforcement may be used as a definitive factor for individual to behave in a certain manner, but is not solely responsible for the motivational factors of a behavior (Foster, 2006).  Additionally, Bandura posits there is a mutual influence of all factors, environment, cognition, and behavior on each other in the learning process (McLeod, 2011).

Modern day relevancy

Albert Bandura’s research has proven to have a positive effect on education system today.  Educational providers as well as parents realize the vitality of modeling appropriate positive behaviors.  It is a well-known and accepted fact that children are like sponges and learn through constant observation and imitations.  Schools are now also adding “success” classes that teach motivation and drive in order to improve self – efficacy in individuals success in education.  Media uses highly appealing advertisement in order to grab the attention of the consumer in order to sell a product that may or may not produce desired results.


            Albert Bandura took philosophical ideas, combined them with behaviorist theories, and then dove a little deeper into the internal aspect and drive of behavior to develop the social learning theory used in most education systems today.  He believed that individuals are unique in all aspects and set out to prove why.  He posits that and individuals personality is based on observations of models found in the environment.  The observations force an individual to learn a behavior and decide if the behavior is going to be adopted based on the consequences of the action.  A highly noted theory in society today is that individuals must model the behavior they desire for a child to adopt, a theory developed by Albert Bandura.


McLeod, S.  A.  (2011).  Bobo doll experiment.  Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html

McLeod, S.  A.  (2011).  Bandura – social learning theory.  Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Foster, Christine.  September, 2006.  “Confidence Man.”  Stanford Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.learningandtheadolescentmind.org/people_06.html


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