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Social Cognitive Theory

What should I know about the social cognitive theory?
The social cognitive theory explains that human behavior is influenced by and influences personal and environmental factors.1 This idea is called “reciprocal determinism.”2

Image from Social and behavioral theories: important theories and their key constructs. e-Source Behavior and Social Sciences Research website. Adapted from: Bandura A. Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 1985.

In addition to reciprocal determinism, the social cognitive theory includes the following key constructs:

  • Observational learning (learning by watching other people)3
  • Self-control (the ability to resist temptation influences one’s behavior)4
  • Self-efficacy (whether or not one believes he/she has the ability to do something influences his/her behavior)5

How does the social cognitive theory show up in our work?
The social cognitive theory has taught us to think about all of the different personal and environmental factors that influence behavior when designing behavior-change programs. Specifically the social cognitive theory reminds us to incorporate opportunities for audiences to:

  • See their peers successfully executing healthy behaviors and reaping rewards (if observational learning is relevant)
  • Self-monitor (if self-control is relevant)
  • Execute behavioral contracts (if self-control is relevant)
  • Engage in realistic goal setting (if self-efficacy is relevant)

Where can I learn more about the social cognitive theory?
Click here or watch the video below to learn more.

Works Cited and Works Consulted

  1. Social and behavioral theories: important theories and their key constructs. e-Source Behavior and Social Sciences Research website. http://www.esourceresearch.org/Default.aspx?TabId=734. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  2. Reciprocal determinism[video]. Mountain View, CA: Khan Academy: October 10, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyPNjYlboaw. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  3. Observational learning: definition, theory and examples. Study.com website. http://study.com/academy/lesson/observational-learning-definition-theory-examples.html
  4. Self control [video]. Mountain View, CA: Khan Academy: October 10, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXdIdIjllEI. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  5. Self esteem, self efficacy, and locus of control [video]. Mountain View, CA: Khan Academy: February 25, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcLKlPTG97k. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  6. McAlister AL, Perry CL, Parcel GS. How individuals, environments, and health behaviors interact: a social cognitive theory. In: Glanz K, Rimer BK, Viswanath K, eds. Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice. 4th ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2008:169-188. http://fhc.sums.ac.ir/files/salamat/health_education.pdf. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  7. Wells D, Zimmer J. Social cognitive theory [video]. February 14, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NbTU1EivJs. Accessed July 2, 2016.