What Are the Main Concepts of Social Cognitive Theory?

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is a psychological theory that emphasizes the importance of observational learning, imitation, and self-efficacy in the development of human behavior. Developed by Albert Bandura, SCT suggests that individuals learn from observing others and the consequences of their actions, rather than solely relying on personal experiences.

The Main Concepts of Social Cognitive Theory

1. Observational Learning

Observational learning is a fundamental concept in SCT.

It refers to the process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, or behaviors by watching others. According to Bandura, individuals can learn not only through direct experience but also by observing and imitating others. This concept highlights the importance of role models and social influences in shaping behavior.

2. Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is another key concept in SCT.

It refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to successfully execute a specific task or behavior. According to Bandura, self-efficacy plays a crucial role in motivation and achievement. Individuals with high self-efficacy are more likely to approach new challenges with confidence and persist in their efforts even when faced with obstacles.

3. Reciprocal Determinism

Reciprocal determinism is a concept that suggests that human behavior is influenced by an ongoing interaction between personal factors (such as beliefs and cognitive processes), environmental factors (such as social norms and physical surroundings), and behavioral factors (such as actions and responses). This idea highlights the bidirectional nature of influence between individuals and their environment.

4. Vicarious Reinforcement

Vicarious reinforcement refers to the process through which individuals are motivated to imitate the behavior of others based on the observed consequences of that behavior.

If an individual sees someone else being rewarded for a particular behavior, they are more likely to imitate it. Conversely, if they witness negative consequences, they are less likely to replicate that behavior.

5. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation refers to an individual’s ability to monitor and control their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

According to SCT, self-regulation plays a crucial role in goal setting, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. Individuals who possess effective self-regulation skills are better equipped to manage their actions and achieve desired outcomes.


Social Cognitive Theory offers valuable insights into how individuals learn from observing others and how their beliefs about their capabilities influence their behavior. By understanding the main concepts of SCT, we can gain a deeper understanding of human development and motivation. Incorporating these concepts into various fields such as education, psychology, and social work can help foster positive change and personal growth.