Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is a learning theory that emphasizes the importance of both cognitive and social processes in shaping human behavior. Developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s, SCT has become an influential framework for understanding how people learn, grow, and change over time.

So, what are the basic principles of Social Cognitive Theory? Let’s dive in!

Principle 1: Behavioral Factors

According to SCT, behavior is shaped by a complex interplay between environmental factors and individual factors. Environmental factors include things like rewards, punishments, and social norms. Individual factors include things like personality traits, beliefs, and attitudes.

Observational Learning

One key aspect of SCT is observational learning. This means that people can learn new behaviors by observing others and then imitating their actions. For example, if a child sees their parent using polite language when speaking to others, they may learn to do the same.

Behavioral Modeling

Another important aspect of SCT is behavioral modeling. This refers to the process of learning new behaviors by watching others perform them successfully. For example, if a person sees someone else successfully complete a difficult task, they may be more likely to try it themselves.

Principle 2: Cognitive Factors

In addition to behavioral factors, SCT also emphasizes the role of cognitive factors in shaping behavior. Cognitive factors refer to mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, and reasoning.


One key cognitive factor in SCT is self-efficacy. This refers to an individual’s belief in their own ability to perform a specific task or achieve a specific goal. If someone has high self-efficacy for a certain behavior (such as public speaking), they will be more likely to engage in that behavior than someone with low self-efficacy.

Outcome Expectations

Another important cognitive factor in SCT is outcome expectations. This refers to an individual’s belief about the consequences of their behavior. For example, if someone believes that exercising regularly will lead to improved health and fitness, they will be more likely to engage in that behavior.

Principle 3: Social Factors

Finally, SCT recognizes the importance of social factors in shaping behavior. Social factors refer to the influence of other people on an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Social Support

One key social factor in SCT is social support. This refers to the encouragement and assistance provided by others, such as friends or family members. Social support can help individuals overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

Social Norms

Another important social factor in SCT is social norms. These are unwritten rules or expectations about how people should behave in a given situation. For example, if a person believes that it is normal to recycle, they are more likely to do so.

Social Cognitive Theory is a powerful framework for understanding how behavior is shaped by cognitive and social processes. By understanding the principles of SCT, we can better understand how individuals learn new behaviors and how we can encourage positive change. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or simply interested in human behavior, SCT is definitely worth exploring further!