WHAT IS Environment in Social Cognitive Theory?

In the field of psychology, the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is a widely recognized framework that explains how individuals acquire and apply knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Developed by Albert Bandura, this theory emphasizes the interplay between personal factors, behavior, and the environment. The environment plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s thoughts, actions, and overall development.

The Role of Environment

In SCT, the environment refers to the external factors that influence an individual’s behavior. These factors can include physical surroundings, social interactions, cultural norms, and various other contextual elements that impact an individual’s learning experiences.

Social Interactions:

Social interactions are a key aspect of an individual’s environment. Bandura argued that people learn through observing others’ behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors.

This process is known as observational learning or modeling. By observing others in their environment, individuals can acquire new skills, attitudes, and even values.

Physical Surroundings:

The physical surroundings in which individuals live also have a significant impact on their behavior. The accessibility of resources and opportunities within one’s environment can either facilitate or hinder personal growth and development.

Cultural Factors:

Culture shapes individuals’ beliefs, values, and behaviors by providing a set of shared norms and expectations within a particular society or community. Cultural factors influence how individuals perceive their environment and interact with others.

The Reciprocal Relationship

According to SCT, the relationship between individuals and their environment is reciprocal. While the environment influences an individual’s behavior, individuals also have the power to shape and modify their environment through their actions and choices.

This reciprocal relationship means that individuals have agency over their own lives. They can actively seek out environments that support their goals and values or modify existing environments to better suit their needs.


An individual’s belief in their ability to successfully perform a specific task or behavior plays a crucial role in how they interact with their environment. Bandura coined the term “self-efficacy” to describe this belief. Higher levels of self-efficacy lead to increased motivation, persistence, and resilience in the face of challenges.


The environment is a key component of the Social Cognitive Theory. It provides the context within which individuals learn, develop, and apply new knowledge and behaviors.

Through social interactions, physical surroundings, and cultural factors, the environment shapes individuals’ thoughts, actions, and overall development. At the same time, individuals have agency over their environment and can actively influence it through their choices and actions.