What Is Social Cognitive Personality Theory?


Martha Robinson

Social Cognitive Personality Theory is a psychological approach that considers the interactions between individuals and their social environment as the primary determinants of personality development. This theory was developed by Albert Bandura in the mid-1970s and has since become one of the most influential perspectives in psychology.

Key Concepts of Social Cognitive Personality Theory

According to Social Cognitive Personality Theory, personality is shaped by three factors: environmental influences, cognitive factors, and behavioral factors. Environmental influences refer to the social context in which a person lives, including family, peers, and cultural norms.

Cognitive factors refer to how individuals perceive, interpret, and evaluate their experiences. Behavioral factors refer to how individuals act on their beliefs and attitudes.

Observational Learning

Observational learning is a key concept in Social Cognitive Personality Theory. This refers to the process by which individuals acquire new behaviors or modify existing ones by observing others. Bandura proposed that people learn not only from direct experience but also through observation of others’ experiences.


Another important concept in Social Cognitive Personality Theory is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her ability to successfully complete a task or achieve a goal. According to Bandura, self-efficacy plays a crucial role in determining whether individuals will take on new challenges or avoid them.

Application of Social Cognitive Personality Theory

Social Cognitive Personality Theory has many practical applications, particularly in education and psychotherapy. In education, teachers can use observational learning techniques to help students learn new skills and behaviors. In psychotherapy, therapists can help clients develop more adaptive behaviors by teaching them new skills and helping them build self-efficacy.

Criticism of Social Cognitive Personality Theory

Although Social Cognitive Personality Theory has many strengths, it has also faced criticism from some psychologists. Critics argue that the theory places too much emphasis on environmental factors and not enough on innate personality traits. Additionally, some have questioned the validity of Bandura’s self-efficacy concept, arguing that it may be difficult to measure and may not always predict behavior.


Overall, Social Cognitive Personality Theory offers a unique perspective on personality development and has many practical applications in education and psychotherapy. By understanding how environmental, cognitive, and behavioral factors interact to shape personality, individuals can gain greater insight into their own development and make more informed decisions about their lives.