What Is the Basic Learning Principle of Social Cognitive Theory?


Jane Flores

Social cognitive theory is a learning theory developed by Albert Bandura in the late 1970s. It is based on the idea that people learn from observing others, and that cognitive processes play a crucial role in this learning. In this article, we will discuss the basic learning principle of social cognitive theory.

Observational Learning

The core principle of social cognitive theory is observational learning, also known as modeling or vicarious learning. This refers to the process of learning through observing others and their behaviors, attitudes, and outcomes. Through this process, individuals can acquire new skills, knowledge, and behaviors without necessarily engaging in them themselves.

Social Factors

Bandura’s theory emphasizes the importance of social factors in observational learning. He argued that individuals are more likely to imitate behaviors they see being rewarded than those that are punished. Additionally, people are more likely to model their behavior after individuals who are similar to them in terms of age, gender, interests or any other relevant characteristics.

Cognitive Factors

Social cognitive theory also recognizes the importance of cognitive factors in learning. Individuals do not simply observe and imitate behavior; rather they also engage in mental processes such as attentional processes (paying attention to relevant stimuli), retention processes (remembering what was observed), motor reproduction processes (imitating the behavior), and motivational processes (determining whether or not to engage in the behavior).


Another important concept within social cognitive theory is self-efficacy. This refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a specific task or behavior successfully. Bandura argued that self-efficacy plays an important role in determining whether individuals will engage in certain behaviors or not.

  • High self-efficacy: Individuals with high self-efficacy are more likely to engage in challenging tasks and persist despite obstacles
  • Low self-efficacy: Individuals with low self-efficacy are more likely to avoid challenging tasks and give up easily when facing obstacles

Implications for Education

Social cognitive theory has important implications for education. It suggests that teachers should model the behaviors they want their students to engage in, while also providing opportunities for students to observe and imitate each other. Additionally, teachers should focus on building students’ self-efficacy by providing them with opportunities for success and offering feedback that is both specific and positive.

In conclusion, social cognitive theory emphasizes the importance of observational learning, social and cognitive factors, and self-efficacy in determining behavior. By understanding these principles, educators can create more effective learning environments that promote student success.