Social cognitive theory is a widely studied and applied approach to understanding human behavior. One of its key concepts is modeling, which refers to the process of learning by observing others. In this article, we will explore the definition of modeling, its different types, and how it is used in social cognitive theory.

What Is Modeling?

Modeling, also known as observational learning or vicarious learning, is a type of learning that occurs through observing and imitating others. It is based on the idea that people can learn from the experiences of others without having to go through those experiences themselves. Modeling can occur intentionally or unintentionally and can involve various types of behavior.

Types of Modeling

There are four main types of modeling:

  1. Live Modeling: This type of modeling involves directly observing someone performing a behavior.
  2. Verbal Modeling: In this type of modeling, a person describes a behavior or skill in words rather than demonstrating it.
  3. Symbols: Symbols such as images or videos can be used to model behaviors.
  4. Modeled Behaviors: This type involves observing the consequences of someone else’s behavior.

The Importance of Modeling in Social Cognitive Theory

Modeling plays an important role in social cognitive theory because it helps explain how people learn new behaviors and develop attitudes about various things. According to this theory, people are more likely to imitate behaviors that they see being reinforced or rewarded. For example, if a child sees their parents being kind to others and being praised for their kindness, they are more likely to imitate that behavior.

Modeling also helps explain why people may not always act in ways that align with their beliefs or attitudes. If someone observes others behaving in a certain way, even if it goes against their beliefs, they may still imitate that behavior because it is being rewarded or reinforced. This can lead to a discrepancy between what people say they believe and how they act.

Applications of Modeling

Modeling has many applications in various fields such as education, psychology, and advertising. In education, teachers can use modeling to demonstrate desired behaviors and skills to their students.

In psychology, therapists can use modeling to help their clients learn new behaviors and coping strategies. In advertising, companies often use models in their commercials to demonstrate the benefits of their products.


Modeling is a powerful tool for learning and behavior change. It allows people to learn from the experiences of others without having to go through those experiences themselves. By understanding the different types of modeling and its importance in social cognitive theory, we can better understand why people behave the way they do and how we can influence behavior change in ourselves and others.