The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is an influential psychological theory that explains how people acquire and apply knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The theory is based on the premise that people learn from observing others’ actions, experiences, and outcomes. Moreover, SCT posits that individuals can also learn by self-reflection and self-regulation.

What Is SCT?
SCT was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s. The theory builds upon behaviorism, which posits that behavior is shaped by environmental stimuli.

However, SCT also considers cognitive processes such as attention, memory, and motivation. According to SCT, people are not passive recipients of environmental cues; they actively interpret and respond to them based on their past experiences, beliefs, and goals.

The Key Concepts of SCT
SCT consists of several key concepts that interact with each other to influence behavior:

Observational Learning

Observational learning is the process of acquiring new behaviors or modifying existing ones by observing others’ actions and consequences. In SCT, observational learning occurs through four stages: attention (paying attention to the model’s behavior), retention (remembering the behavior), reproduction (imitating the behavior), and motivation (being motivated to repeat or avoid the behavior based on its consequences).


Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a specific task or achieve a particular goal successfully. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to set challenging goals for themselves and persist in the face of difficulties. Conversely, people with low self-efficacy may avoid challenging tasks or give up easily.

Behavioral Outcomes

Behavioral outcomes refer to the actions or behaviors that individuals demonstrate as a result of their learning experiences. These can be positive or negative depending on whether the learned behavior is desirable or undesirable.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors refer to the physical, social, and cultural context in which behavior occurs. SCT posits that environmental factors can influence behavior by providing incentives or disincentives for certain actions.


Self-regulation refers to an individual’s ability to monitor and control their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In SCT, self-regulation is a crucial factor in determining whether learned behaviors are maintained or extinguished over time. Individuals who can regulate their behavior effectively are more likely to maintain desirable behaviors and avoid undesirable ones.

Applications of SCT
SCT has been used to explain a wide range of human behaviors, from health-related behaviors such as smoking cessation and dietary habits to educational practices such as classroom management and instructional design. Moreover, SCT has been applied in organizational settings such as leadership development and employee training.


In conclusion, the Social Cognitive Theory is a comprehensive psychological theory that explains how people learn from observing others’ actions, experiences, and outcomes. The theory emphasizes the role of cognitive processes such as attention, memory, self-efficacy, and self-regulation in shaping behavior. Understanding these concepts can help us design effective interventions to promote positive behavioral outcomes in various contexts.