Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1980s. This theory emphasizes the importance of both cognitive and environmental factors in determining human behavior.

According to SCT, people learn by observing others and modeling their behavior based on those observations. There are three key constructs of Social Cognitive Theory that help to explain how this learning process occurs.

The Three Constructs of Social Cognitive Theory

1. Observational Learning

Observational learning, also known as modeling, is a key component of SCT. This construct suggests that people learn by observing others and then modeling their behavior based on those observations. For example, a child may learn how to tie their shoes by watching their parents or siblings tie their shoes repeatedly.

Observational learning can occur both consciously and unconsciously. People may be aware that they are observing someone else’s behavior and intentionally try to model that behavior, or they may unconsciously adopt behaviors they have observed without realizing it.

2. Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to successfully perform a specific task or behavior. This construct is an important part of SCT because it helps explain why some people are more likely than others to model certain behaviors.

According to SCT, individuals who have high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to attempt new behaviors and persist in the face of challenges than those with low levels of self-efficacy. For example, someone who believes they can successfully complete a difficult task is more likely to try than someone who does not believe in their ability.

3. Reciprocal Determinism

Reciprocal determinism refers to the idea that human behavior is shaped by the interaction between cognitive factors (such as thoughts and beliefs), environmental factors (such as social norms), and personal factors (such as personality traits). This construct suggests that behavior is not solely determined by internal factors, but also by external factors and the interaction between the two.

For example, a person’s decision to engage in a particular behavior may be influenced by their internal beliefs and motives, as well as by the social norms and expectations of their environment. In turn, their behavior may then influence their environment and reinforce or challenge those social norms.


In conclusion, Social Cognitive Theory provides a framework for understanding how people learn through observation and modeling. The three key constructs of SCT – observational learning, self-efficacy, and reciprocal determinism – help to explain how cognitive, environmental, and personal factors interact to shape human behavior. By understanding these constructs, we can better understand why people behave the way they do and develop effective strategies for promoting positive behavior change.