Social Cognitive Theory is a widely used and accepted theory in psychology. It explains how individuals learn and develop beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors through observation, imitation, and modeling.

The theory was developed by Albert Bandura, a renowned Canadian psychologist in the 1960s. According to Bandura, human behavior is shaped by three main factors: personal factors, environmental factors, and behavior itself.

Personal Factors

Personal factors refer to an individual’s characteristics such as their personality traits, cognitive abilities, and emotions. These factors influence how individuals perceive and interpret information from their environment. For instance, an individual with low self-esteem may perceive themselves negatively even when they receive positive feedback from others.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors refer to the external conditions that affect an individual’s behavior such as social norms, culture, and physical surroundings. For example, a child growing up in a violent neighborhood may become more aggressive due to exposure to violence.


Behavior refers to actions taken by an individual in response to their environment. Behavior can be learned through observation or direct experience. For instance, a child may learn how to behave in school by observing how their teacher interacts with other students.

Social Cognitive Theory Principles

Based on these three main factors that shape human behavior – personal factors, environmental factors, and behavior itself – Social Cognitive Theory proposes several principles:

Reciprocal Determinism

Reciprocal determinism refers to the ongoing interaction between personal factors, environmental factors, and behavior. For instance, an individual’s belief that they can succeed at a particular task (personal factor) may influence how much effort they put into it (behavior). Their success or failure at the task may then influence their belief in their ability to succeed (personal factor).

Vicarious Learning

Vicarious learning refers to learning by observing others. For example, a child may learn to ride a bike by watching their older sibling ride. This type of learning can also involve observing the consequences of others’ behaviors and adjusting one’s own behavior accordingly.


Self-regulation refers to an individual’s ability to control their own behavior. This includes setting goals, monitoring progress towards those goals, and adjusting behavior as needed.


Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to carry out a particular behavior or task. This belief can influence whether or not they attempt the behavior or task and how much effort they put into it.

Overall, Social Cognitive Theory provides valuable insights into how individuals learn and develop behaviors. By understanding the principles of Social Cognitive Theory, psychologists can better understand how people adapt and change in response to their environment.