THE SOCIAL COGNITIVE LEARNING APPROACH
Social Cognitive learning approach agrees with other behaviorist theories in:
- Regarding behavior as primarily learnt
- Focus on observable behavior
Differs from other theories in:
- Make use of unobservable matters (thoughts , expectations, convictions etc)
- Use concepts from cognitive & Gestalt psychology and phenomenology rather than from psychoanalysis.
- Regard Observational learning as most NB form of learning & doesn’t see reinforcement as an essential aspect of learning.
Developed by a number of psychologists who share a basic point of departure.
Esp Julian Rotter, Albert Bandura & Walter Mischel.
Rotter – Behavior is learned in interaction with others.
– Expectations re outcome of behavior + values attached to outcome is more NB than reward in itself.
– Chief contribution: Work on Internal & External locus of control.
Bandura – Also believes behavior is learnt & expectations are NB
- Special emphasis on Observational Learning(learning through imitation) and on self-regulation.
- Reciprocal Determinism
Mischel – Interactinal Approach
- Also focus on role of expectations & notion of self control
VIEW OF THE PERSON
•Positivist approach – Behavior is the result of knowable causes.
– But acknowledges multiple causes (eg factors in the individual & the environment)
• Not Environmental Determinism – Allowance is made for individual to influence own behavior & development.
– Human & situation = co-determinants of behavior.
• Extreme Behaviorists – Behavior is determined by forces beyond control.
• Cognitive Learning Theorists – Individuals are active participants
• Mischel - Interactional View/ Theory of specificity
- Individual characteristics are not fixed
- Individuals react differently in same situation
Thus: Interaction between individual and situation determines behavior.
• Bandura - Reciprocal Determinism
Person + Situation + Behavior in the situation determine behavior.
Thus: behavior is a result of, and part of the process.
Individuals determine own behavior while being influenced by the environment and their own behavior.
Response Repertoire = The possible behaviors available in a situation.
Which behavior ends up being produced depends on:
- Nature of the situation
- People’s learning experiences
- Expectations & goals
- Behavior actually produced
• Thus humans determine their own lives & development. Can choose what they regard as valuable and rewarding.
• Social cognitive learning view of the person has not been fully/clearly developed:
- To what extent do they allow for biological needs
- To what extent is behavior determined by bio-needs
- Can striving for meaning be stronger than bio-needs?
STRUCTURE OF THE PERSONALITY
• Emphasize functioning & dynamics of personality
• “Person” = the locus where certain processes take place
No specific structure.
DYNAMICS OF THE PERSONALITY
The Social Cognitive Learning View of Motivation
• Motivation – Seen like any aspect of human functioning
- result of interaction + learning/interaction betw individual & situation
• Bandura’s view is representative:
- (The others wrote little on it)
- Rejects drives & needs as explaining behavior:
* Circular Argument
* The existence of the behavior is used to prove the existence of the need, &
* The need is used to explain the behavior.
* This reasoning can lead to “discovering” countless drives, explaining nothing.
- Rejects explanations of Extreme Behaviorists that environment only explains behavior:
* Behavior often stays consistent in spite of environmental changes.
- Behavior is motivated by “probable results” = expectations
- Expectations - shaped by 2 learning processes: Experiences & Observations.
- not an automatic result of environmental influences
- active role is played through interpretation & evaluation
- Self Evaluation – Also plays NB role
- People have own standards for themselves.
• Mischel - Human ability to self-regulate & self- control is reflected in:
- Willpower, mastery, competence (also helplessness & hopelessness)
- These all involve the idea of volition & ability of individuals to self-regulate in order to increase mastery in the light of particular goals.
• Summary – The Social Cognitive Learning view of motivation:
Individuals, in interaction with the situation determine their own motivation.
Thus human behavior is determined by a large variety of different, individual motives.
Person Variables: The functioning of the person according to Social Cognitive Learning Theory
• Prediction Formula - BP = f(E,RV)
- Behavior potential (BP) is a function of expectancy (E) and Reinforcement value (RV)
- Expectancy = the expected outcome of behavior
- Reinforcement Value = How desired is this outcome.
- E & RV - Both are person variables
- Not fixed values, changes relative to the situation as perceived by the individual.
- If both are high, behavior potential is high & vice versa.
• Generalised Expectancies – Eventually Develop regarding results of behavior
- (script in TA?)
- Many expectancies develop: eg regarding
* Trustworthiness of others.
* Locus of Control
• Locus of Control - A Generalised expectancy re extent to which people expect to
control their own lives.
- External / Internal
- Linked to other aspects of personality and behavior.
- Not an Either/Or proposition
• Individuals posess various capabilities that underlies their functioning and
distinguishes them from animals.
1. The Symbolising capability - Fundamental to all other capabilities
Enables people to - Conserve & manipulate experiences in the form of cognitions
- Reflect on experiences & plan future actions
- Communicate, even across space & time
- Influence one another
- Formulate ideas about matters they have never personally experienced
- Humanity can accumulate wealth of experience as culture
2. The Forethought Capability - People don’t simply react to present or are programmed
Can devise plans & goals and act in accordance w/these.
3. The Vicarious Capability - Ability to learn from the experience of others.
- Broadens learning capability immensely
- Can learn complex & dangerous behavior that could not be acquired through direct experience
4. The Self-Reflective capability - Ability to have a self-image, to reflect on oneself and
to evaluate oneself.
- Central component of this capability is Self Efficacy Perception
• Self Efficacy Perception - Belief about own capability to function effectively in a given situation.
- Determines whether someone will even attempt to deal with a situation.
- Influences choice of situations (people choose ones they think they can cope with)
- High self-efficacy = higher motivation & persistence, leading to higher success, reinforcing self-efficacy, and vice versa.
• Comprehensive list of ‘ cognitive-social person variables’ - intended to incorporate
variables defined by Rotter & Bandura.
• Encoding Strategies - Proceeding from Bandura’s symbolizing capability.
- Vast differences in how people encode/symbolize
- People gradually develop characteristic ways of encoding, paying attention to some things & ignoring others.
- Thus encoding strategies influence personality esp by determining what a person will learn & how they will see &evaluate themselves. (Thus corresponding also to Bandura’s self-efficacy perception)
• Expectancy - Like Rotter’s Expectancy
- Expectations re outcomes of behavior.
• Self-Regulating Systems & plans - Includes various functions
- eg standards set for self, goals, reaction to success/failure & patterns of thinking selected to cope.
- Provide individuals with a measure of control over own lives
- Many individual differences, also differences regarding competencies.
Learning from the Social Cognitive Learning Perspective:
• Focus is on the work of Bandura.
• All behavior, except for reflexes, is learnt.
• Differences between other Behaviorists and Social Cognitive vies on learning:
1 Behaviorists see the learner as passive.
SCL theorists see learner as active participant, influencing learning eg through
* Choosing what to learn
* Values, that determine what is considered a reward
* Rewarding/punishing themselves.
2 Behaviorists regard Conditioning as the only form of learning
SCL acknowledge 3 forms of learning
* Learning through direct experience (includes conditioning)
* Observational Learning
* Learning through self-regulation
3 Difference in reinforcement & what forms of reinforcement are recognized.
Behaviorists only link learning to reinforcement/punishment by an external agent
SLC Theorists distinguish between 3 kinds of reinforcement:
1. Direct Reinforcement = Individual receives reward for their behavior from an external
agent, or something unpleasant is taken away.
(Counts for direct punishment as well)
2. Vicarious Reinforcement = Individual observes someone else rewarded for their
Behavior.(Counts for vicarious punishment as well)
3. Self-Reinforcement = Individual rewards own behavior by feeling proud, praising self,
or giving self a concrete reward.
Self-Punishment = Individual punishes self through blame, shame or concrete punishment.
• Self Regulation = NB role in all three types of learning.
• Individual’s subjective acceptance of punishment and reward might be most NB element.
LEARNING THROUGH DIRECT EXPERIENCE:
• Behavior changes as result of performing a behavior, for which they are rewarded or punished by someone else.
• This kind of learning is focused on by Behaviorists
• Operant/instrumental conditioning + classical/respondent conditioning.
• SCL theorists - attribute less importance to this type of learning.
- Define learning through direct experience differently from Skinner:
Not automatic, cognitive processes play a role
• People don’t just produce behavior; they think & evaluate the consequences. Thus cognition plays a role.
• All available information plays a role in the evaluation.
• SCL theorists see self-reinforcement as more NB than direct reinforcement, even in operant conditioning:
*Direct reinforcement only succeeds in conjunction with self-reward.
* If someone feels guilty, he will stop the behavior even if he gets a concrete
* Thus success of conditioning depends on whether the person subjectively
accepts the reinforcement as a reward or not.
• Also thinks only a small portion of behavior is learnt through Direct experience.
• SCL theorists regard this as the most NB form of learning.
• Many behaviors are too complex/dangerous/removed from daily experience to be learnt though operant conditioning: eg driving a car, shaving, welding, playing an instrument etc
Social Learning - All learning phenomena in which social and cognitive factors play a
- More inclusive term than observational learning.
Model - The one (person, book, movie character etc) whose behavior is being observed.
Observer - One doing the observing and thus the learning.
Reinforcement Agent - The one rewarding/Punishing the model.
Modelling - The behavior of the model
Imitation - Behavior of the observer
Counter-Imitation - Observer behaves in opposite manner to the model, through
vicarious punishment or other factors, such as a negative attitude towards
Aspects of Observational learning:
Attention - If the observer isn’t paying attention, nothing will be learnt
Retention - Remembering the observed behavior (as distinct from)
Reproduction - Reproducing the learnt behavior.
Factors Influencing Observational Learning:
These factors do not function in isolation, but always in the context of the interaction between the individual, the situation and the immediate behavior.
1. The Nature of Modelled Behavior:
* Influences all 3 aspects of observational learning ( Attention, retention & reproduction)
Depending on situation & motivation of observer.
Eg: New, unknown, active or striking behaviour gets attention & is more readily
imitated. Perhaps why aggressive behavior is also more readily imitated.
* Information given to observer in advance can influence attention processes by, for
example, drawing attention to a specific aspect of the demonstration.
* Interaction between nature of observed behavior & observer’s moral values NB
Esp re difference between retention & reproduction
2. The Characteristics of the Model:
*eg age, sex, status, personality
* High status model, or one seen as similar to the observer, is more readily imitated.
* Symbolic models often copied as readily as real ones, esp if visually represented.
3. The Characteristics of the Observer:
* Motivation, Interests, Values, Self-confidence, Opinions, Intelligence, Perceptiveness
* Personality - esp expectancies, values & sef perceptions
- NB in determining which models they will select, which behavior will hold
their attention, & what they will retain and reproduce.
- Expectations = NB in what behavior is reproduced.
4. Results of the Model’s Behavior:
• Vicarious outcomes = The reinforcement/punishment the model receives.
- Most extensively studied aspect of observational learning.
- Don’t automatically influence observer’s behavior:
- Vicarious results provide the observer with information to be interpreted in the light of the situation & previous experiences.
• Vicarious outcomes have the following influences:
○ Provide info to be taken into account when deciding on own actions.
○ Influences observer’s motivation by encouraging/discouraging certain
○ How models react to the consequences of their actions may influence
observer’s emotional reactions & values
○ May influence the observer’s opinion of the model and the reinforcing agent (eg
if punishment is seen as unfair)
•Vicarious reward & punishment - Both lead to retaining behavior, but reward more
readily leads to imitation than punishment.
- Both are more likely to lead to acquisition than when the modeled behavior has no noticeable outcome.
• Relative outcome = Observers judge outcome by comparing it to previous experience.
- Previous experience determine whether an outcome is perceived to be a reward/punishment.
• Observers can also indirectly imitate behavior. (or indirectly counter-imitate)
(Behaviorists would say attribute this to generalization, and SCL theorists would attribute it to a deduced rule or principle.)
•Influences esp the reproduction of behavior
•If the observer doesn’t believe he will be able to reproduce behavior, he will not attempt to.
LEARNING THROUGH SELF-REGULATION:
Self-Regulation = Ability to regulate own behavior, esp their learning processes.
- Includes self-reinforcement & self-punishment.
- Also happens by choosing situations which will expose the individual to particular influences.
- Regarded by SCL theorists as most NB form of learning, fundamental to all other types of learning.
2 basic types of self-regulation:
• Internal Self-Regulation = subjective evaluation of behavior.
•External Self-Regulation = Arranging the situation and outcome of behavior so that the
- individual rewards or punishes self in a concrete way.
Self-Regulation is also applied to other aspects of behavior:
- Internal and external locus of control
- Relationship between self-regulation and willpower in striving towards goals
- Ability to postpone reward
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PERSONALITY
• The individual develops throughout the entire lifespan - continuously learning & modifying behavior.
►No developmental stages or description of the developmental process as such.
•Development = an ongoing process of change resulting from the interaction betw genetic & environmental factors.
• Rather focus on development of specific behavior.
• No specific pronouncements on optimal development.
• SCL theorists study learned behavior - not good/bad, adjusted/maladjusted behavior
• Deduced, implicit view:
Optimally developed people
- can recognize and take into account factors relevant to effective functioning
In a given situation
- can produce behavior which meets own standards
- have realistic self-efficacy
- Its mostly the environment that determines what the individual will regard as desirable/valuable.
VIEWS ON PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
•Pathological behavior - learnt, like any behavior.
• Differs from behaviorists - In regarding observational learning as NB
Agrees w/behaviorists - In not looking for underlying dynamic causes
- In virtually ignoring organically based disturbances.
•Have developed more specific ideas abt origin of undesirable behavior:
- Lack of self-efficacy.
- Certain cognitive styles/encoding strategies (learnt helplessness/pessimism)
• Learnt Helplessness is associated with - Emotional Disturbance (@mercy of the
- Reduced Motivation
- Cognitive Deficiency (inability connect
betw behavior & results)
• Explanatory Style = Characteristic style in explaining/perceiving events
- internal/external locus of control
- tendency to see situations as stable/transient
- tendency to view matters globally/limited
•Emphasis on cognitive elements as cause of psychological problems
► Focus on changing unhealthy expectancy patterns & encoding strategies
IMPLICATIONS & APPLICATIONS
• Social Cognitive Learning theory = Well- equipped for practical application.
- Draws attention to people’s ability to change
• Individual’s behavior can be changed by manipulating the environment
But - the individual retains a degree of control.
Teaching and Education
• Teachers = Reinforcing agents AND role models.
- have impact just by being observed
• Basic purpose of SCL therapy = improve functioning in the type of situation the client finds problematic.
• Attempt to teach more effective cognitive styles & to improve self-efficacy.
- Techniques are usually brief (and thus economical)
- Can be used with individuals and groups
- Can be linked with other techniques
- Lay people can be taught to use them & thus cope without the therapist.
• Modelling = A model demonstrates the desired behavior to the client.
- Modelling someone learning the behavior seems more effective than modeling as someone who has already accomplished the behavior.
- Modelling in conjunction with desensitation
- Participant modelling = combining modeling with direct reinforcement when the modelled behavior is reproduced by the client.
- Covert modelling = client imagines someone modeling the desired behavior.
• Some techniques can be used by clients after brief training by the therapist.
Eg stress inoculation = clients are taught to restructure situations cognitively so that they are experienced as less stressful.
• Self-therapy = Individual can set up contract with rewards and punishments for various
• Beck - Developed Cognitive therapy for depression
- Teaching the client the connection between negative cognitions & depression & to replace these ideas with more realistic thinking.
Measurement & Research
• View that behavior is the result of interaction between person & situation has far-reaching implications for measurement of personality & research.
• Measurement - The situation is that of being questioned, & this influences behavior.
- Traditional Psychometric POV = If someone gets a high score for an
attribute, he will consistently show more of that
attribute than someone with a lower score,
regardless of situation.
- Interactional POV = Behavior of testees in test situation is a result of the
interaction between their characteristics and the testing situation.
- Thus they will not necessarily always display “more” of a characteristic than someone with a lower score for the attribute.
► A test score cannot be used uncritically to predict behavior.
• Solutions - Use biographical data rather than tests
- Situational Tests (use real or simulated situations)
•Interactional pov - Focuses attention on the wide range of factors that play a role in behavior.
- Makes researchers more aware of the complexity of their field of study.
- Prompts researchers to try include this wealth of factors in their research.
- Causes them to display circumspection and care in formulating
The Interpretation and Handling of Aggression
○ Behavioral Repertoire - Includes potential for aggression.
○ Rewarding Consequences - Will increase chances that aggression will be repeated.
- “onset” of aggression by second year, & learnt inhibition of aggression usually learnt by school-age.
○ Aggressive models - Can teach new aggressive responses.
- Low-level aggression can escalate into high-level aggression & should be curbed.
○ Reproduction of aggressive responses - depends on several factors:
- results of behavior, self efficacy, perceptions, interpretation of situation
Self-regulating strategies and values.
○ Provocation - can elicit aggression through unpleasant stimuli
- eg pain, frustration etc as well as expectations of rewarding outcomes.
○ Persistence of aggressive behavior - Governed by results.
○ Regulation of aggressive behavior - Function of interaction between
person, situation & behavior
- Principle of reciprocal determinism.
○ Individual’s contribution to this interaction - Depends on total development.
Development determines - Which aggressive responses are in behavioral
- What the generalized expectancy Patterns are.
- What standards & values are used to evaluate potential outcomes.
• Big contribution to debate re violence in the media. But, must recall that behavior results from individual too, not just from his environment.
• Perceived academic & self-regulatory efficacy - Deters transgressiveness.
Guard against developing unrealistically high academic self-efficacy beliefs.
EVALUATION OF THE THEORY
• Social Cognitive Learning Theory
- More supporters among modern academic psychologists than any other personality theory.
- Integrates other great traditions in academic psychology.
- Will probably continue to grow & gain support
- From nature of assumptions and developed structure, it might expand into a conceptual system that makes competing personality theories redundant.
- Negatives: Difficult to develop an overview because theorists like using new terms for matters
already well known.
- This yields an abundance of terms for cognitive factors obscuring the simple, logical structure underneath.- Lacks a proper, systematic summary of all the related pov and supporting research.