Social cognitive theory refers to a learning theory which is based on the thought that humans learn by looking at what others do. It further suggests that the processes of human thought are essential to understanding personality. Social cognitive theory which is utilized in psychology, education, and communications suggests that sections of the acquisition of an individual’s knowledge can be related directly to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences and the influences of the outside media. Attitude on the other hand refers to a feeling, a belief or an opinion of approval or disapproval towards an idea.
An individual’s attitude is complicated by social factors which influence it. Learning through social cognitive theory is therefore regarded a factor that can shape and direct an individual towards adapting the right kind of attitudes. This can be achieved through psychological treatment which involves the use of cognitive therapy that works towards changing illogical thinking. It is actually our attitudes that drive our behavior. Social cognitive theory has been noted to provide a framework for understanding, predicting and changing human behavior.
During the early 1960s when theories of learning were being developed, Albert Bandura and his researchers realized that most of the works that were being done neglected the important aspect of learning through observing others (Byrne & Robert, 1997, p. 236). He thus commenced his works of the social cognitive theory which was to tackle the individual learning through the observation of others. The origin of social cognitive theory can be traced from the area of social learning theory whose proponents were N. E. Miller and J. Dollar in the year 1941.
The two psychologists through their social cognitive theory proposed that through motivation, human can learn a particular behavior through observation. The social cognitive theory was however expanded by Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel who came up with the idea of social learning theory with the principles of vicarious reinforcement and learning through observation from the year 1962 to the present. The concept of self efficacy was further provided by Bandura in the year 1977 who disapproved the traditional learning theory as away of understanding learning.
When the human on whom learning has taken place emulate the observed actions, they argue that the person observing or imitating would solidify the learnt action and would receive a reward through positive reinforcement. From the above principles of social cognitive theory were identified. One of the principles was that people learn by observing others. Secondly, learning takes pace internally and may therefore not change attitude thus behavior. Thirdly, the behavior of people in certain ways may be directed towards meeting certain goals.
Additionally, an individual’s behavior is self directed, and finally that punishment and reinforcement both have changeable and indirect consequences on both behavior and learning. Methodology A study on social cognitive theory was conducted in different setting including learning institutions to verify how learning through social cognitive theory takes place and how the right kind of attitude can be achieved through social cognitive theory. The study mainly involved students in different learning institutions from different tribes, societies and cultures who were interviewed and their views towards their teachers recorded.
In addition it involved interviewed patients to confirm how social cognitive theory can help them adopt right kinds of attitudes towards their conditions. The research procedure involved first developing the topic of study, which was learning and adopting the right attitudes through social cognitive theory, after which the research questions were formulated. Some of the research questions which were used in interview included, “how does learning take place through social cognitive theory? ”
“Can the right kinds of attitudes be adapted through social cognitive theory? Other questions asked depended on whoever the questions were directed to for instance when interviewing learners in different learning institutions another question was, how do you view your trainers as far as adapting the right attitudes through social cognitive theory is concerned? The next step of the research involved finding the background information on learning and adapting right attitudes through social cognitive theory. This was done by looking for the key words of the topic from encyclopedias with the same subject.
From the encyclopedias several articles were read which set the context for the research. Results From the research conducted on social cognitive theory to find out how learning takes place through social cognitive theory, it was verified the learning takes place mainly through observation. This involves two or more parties whereby there is the observer and the person being observed. The observer observes the actions of another person or model and imitates the observed actions to allow the observed actions to be put in practice and for learning to take place.
In addition, results of the study confirmed that the right kind of attitude could be achieved through social cognitive theory. Learning through social cognitive theory to adapt the right kinds of attitude could only be possible if there is a close identification between the observer and the person being observed. Nevertheless the achievement of right kinds of attitudes through social cognitive learning was identified to involve the use of psychological treatment which involves the use of cognitive therapy, which works towards changing illogical thinking.
Discussion From the research that was conducted on social cognitive theory, it was confirmed that through social cognitive theory one can learn through observation that is looking at the actions of others, imitating the actions and allowing learning to take place. The research however has shown that through observations the person involved in the observation can receive two different effects. First the individual observer may suffer inhibitory effect which refers to a positive punishment action.
This mainly takes place when the person observing sees the action of another individual involved in the social situation being punished and feels that he or she could suffer the same punishment if she or he continued to observe the same action and imitate it. Secondly an individual observer may suffer disinhibitory effect which refers to a positive reinforcement action. This occurs when a person is commended for conducting a certain action and the observer having observed the action learns from the action, and imitates the action.
This creates a feeling that if the observer fully learns the action from the person he or she was observing and puts it into uses, he or she will receive the same praises. The research further found out that in vicarious reinforcement, the observer does not anticipate for any punishments or rewards but expects comparable effects to his or her imitated behaviors and gives room for the effects to take place through learning the action. The research conducted in different learning institutions showed that in academic settings trainers plays the role of a model to the learner’s learning acquisition.
Trainers were therefore recommended to show dedication to the making of high self efficacy levels in their learners by identifying their achievements (Miller & Dollard, 1941, p. 48). During the study, different learners were interviewed on how they viewed their trainers within their respective learning institutions. The results were positive as more than half of all the interviewed students, that is around 83%, confirmed that their trainers acted as role models to them and therefore needed their dedication which would assist the learners to build high self efficacy level through identification of their achievements.
A further study revealed that increased development in social cognitive theory in adapting the right kind of attitude suggests that the likelihood of the occurrence of learning will be possible if there is close identification between the observer and the person being observed, that is the model and in the presence of a good deal of self efficacy.
Identification was found to be important since it allows the observer to feel personal attachment with the person being observed thus the observer will have a high likelihood of achieving the imitations if he or she feels that the imitations have the ability to follow through the imitated action. Even though it was earlier noted that social cognitive theory is mainly utilized in education, psychology and communications, our research revealed that social cognitive theory is currently applied in different arenas including public health, mass media and marketing among others.
In public health for instance, our research found out that social cognitive theory can be used in ensuring success in an AIDS campaign. It was found that this could be possible through selecting the appropriate gender, age or ethnicity and giving them an opportunity to identify with a peer, have a greater sense of self efficacy and then imitate the actions so that proper preventions and actions for a more informative AIDS community can be taken.
Consequently, the research showed that the social cognitive theory is applicable in health communication in helping the patients to adapt the right attitudes towards their conditions. In the first place the social cognitive theory tackles cognitive aspects, behavioral aspects as well as emotional aspects all for understanding the changes in attitudes. Secondly, the ideas of social cognitive theory make available means for new behavioral research in health education.
Lastly, through social cognitive theory the concepts of theoretical areas like psychology can be employed to provide new approaches and understanding of behavioral and attitude changes. Social cognitive theory definitely describes learning in terms of interrelationship between behavior, environmental factors and personal factors. According to social cognitive theory, knowledge can only be acquired by the learner when the environment in which he or she is living congregates with his or her own personal characteristics and personal experience.
In the course of this study it was identified that an individual had to develop behavior that is the observing behavior, which had to combine with the environmental factors which facilitate the observation process and finally with the personal factors which includes the ability to imitate and allow the actions to take place. In addition social cognitive theory provides a theoretical framework which encourages interactive learning as a factor for developing both constructivism and corporate learning.
According to social cognitive theory, the behavior of human beings can be self-motivated and involve the interaction of personal factors, behavior and the environment. The theory argues that the behavior of an individual is determined by each of the three factors. The social cognitive theorists assert that the attitude of an individual is deeply determined by the interaction of personal factors, behavior and environmental factors. The social cognitive theorists, nevertheless believes that the consequences of response determine attitude (Byrne & Robert, 1997, p. 40).
Through the observations conducted during the study, it was found that different perceptions of individuals and their actions influence their cognitive development. From the study it was also noted that there are three models that children can learn and imitate from. These models include family members, teachers and peer. These three models however represent only the live models even though we do also have some iconic models such as pictorial representation of behavior as well as non performance models that result from the text or verbal instruction.
It was noted that the social cognitive theory is different from other human functioning theory in that other human functioning theories overemphasize the influence of biological factors in human development, adaptation and change in relation to cultural context. The research found out that social cognitive theory provides a clear explanation on how individuals obtain and sustain behavioral patterns and attitudes as well as providing the foundation for intervention strategies.
Assessing behavioral and attitudinal changes depends on factors such as behavior, individual and environment. Social cognitive theory is originated in the view of human agency where by human beings are agents proactively engaged in their own development and influence things through their actions and make them happen the way they want them to happen. Just like the behaviorist theory, social cognitive theory holds the view that consequences mediate attitudes. It further continues to contend that attitude is major regulated through cognitive processes.
In addition, social cognitive theory emphasizes on the cognitions of an individual that gives the suggestion that the human mind is an active force that constructs the reality of an individual’s mind, encodes information, and performs behavior on the basis of values and expectations as well as imposing structure on its own actions. The involvement of models in the learning of social cognitive theory, influence the self systems of the learner making cognitive development an interdependent process of observational learning.
The development of cognitive psychology changes overtime as a result of maturation and experience acquired in life. This is because as an individual matures the attention span increases, memory expands, he or she develops the ability to form and use symbol with more advanced reasoning skills. Social cognitive theory in helping individuals to adopt the right kind of attitudes circles around gaining of knowledge through learning directly related to observation models. This was to involve models of interpersonal imitation or the model from media sources (Eagly, 1993, p. 47).
Generally social cognitive theory implements an agentic point of view to the progress of human, their adaptation and change in varied cultural contexts. Social cognitive theory further differentiates from three modes of agency which includes the personal agency which is practiced by individuals, proxy agency which involves a situation where people safeguard preferred results by manipulating other people to operate on their behalf, and lastly the collective agency which involves action of a group of people in a show to shape their future.
The world over, the applications of a theory that is socially cognitive have provided evidence of success in increasing the perceived efficacy of viewers to establish the sizes of their families, raising the agreement of family planning, improving the agentic status of the females and enhancing the universal use of family planning services and contraceptives (Byrne & Robert, 1997, p. 238). Conclusion Generally it can be concluded that learning through social cognitive theory can only take place through observation.
It is however necessary for the person trying to learn a certain action to have a close identification with the person he or she is observing so that he or she can increase the likelihood of the occurrence of learning and to create a good deal for the building of high self efficacy. In addition, the learner should be able to make a relation between his or her behavior, environmental factors and personal factors. This is mainly to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge by the learner.