My mind, my thoughts, my words

Social Cognitive Theory (for Personality) (P8)

Bandura wanted to focus on thinking (cognition) and self processes (people are given control and personal agency: their goals, self-evaluation, self-efficacy). The theory should have useful applications in therapy. Mischel found traits too broad, they didn’t account for variability across situations and showed trends for population but were no good for individuals. Hence SCT arose because these people thought that other approaches did not adequately address human psychology (and personality for that matter); e.g. the evolutionary perspective ignores most things, the behavioural approach states that we don’t have control over our actions, and the traits theory is too broad.

A theory should

  • integrate (unite knowledge, not just create some)
  • apply to individuals (explain tendencies and variability)
  • be able to be applied usefully to help individuals

The main ideas of SCT are

  • people have control (active agents)
  • behaviour has social origins
  • thoughts (cognitive processes) are vital
  • tendencies and variability are important
  • people can learn complex behaviours without the prospect of reward
  • a person can reason about the world, past, present and future and can self-reflect (focus on self-processes)

The core concepts of SCT are

  • reality based

1) competencies and skills

  • perception based

2) expectancies and beliefs
3) behavioural standards
4) personal goals

These four make up personality and cause personality fluctuations in different situations

1 – Competencies and Skills

  • ways of thinking and behaving (e.g. problem-solving)
  • context-specific (e.g. a professor may be able to talk in front of students for an hour but not do so when with a couple of friends)
  • can be improved/acquired
  • either procedural (you know how to do something but can’t ‘explain’ why, e.g. kick a ball) or declarative (you can communicate it through language, e.g. tell people what you know about SCT)

kid2 – Beliefs and Expectancies

  • beliefs: what the world is like now
  • expectancies: what the world will be like
  • whether-you-think-you-can-or-think-you-cant-you-re-rightSelf-efficacy: someone’s belief about their ability to do something; behaviour correlates with self-efficacy r = .84! It’s context specific, strong predictor of performance, an anchor modulates the underlying ability and when it’s high, self-efficacy is high (thus, one’s own belief can be manipulated!), self-efficacy beliefs for effort and performance can overcome differences in ability (e.g. muscular leg endurance task; you’re told you’re competing against a person with a knee problem and thus expect to be better at the task, and indeed, you will be better), when self-efficacy is high, you’re calm, persistent, organised, and try difficult tasks.

3 – Behavioural (or Evaluative) Standards

  • what the world should be like, criterion to judge worth of something (including self)
  • personal standards > lead to self-evaluative reflection (pride/dissatisfaction), work as reinforcers/punishment
  • Morals: common evaluative standards, mental representations that tell you what you should do (disengagement: reframe perceptions,  e.g. when you work in a prison you may be more likely to belief that legally executing someone is okay while murder is not – or maybe, their moral standards differ to begin with?)

4 – Goals

  • what you want to achieve in the future
  • they motivate and direct behaviour
  • goals contribute to self-control, establish priorities, help organise behaviours
  • they’re influenced by:
    • challenges (self-efficacy, the higher the more challenging are your goals)
    • proximity (the closer in time and distance, the more likely for you to pursue the goal)
    • meaning
      • ability and effort are believed to be either fixed or changeable
      • learning (‘mastery goal’) keep trying, don’t worry about failure (belief that your ability can change; when tested you think you’re learning, so you show ‘normal’ behaviour)
      • performance: you’re not enjoying the journey but are focused on your performance (belief that your ability is fixed; when think you’re being tested you use your ideal/ought self (see self 1/b/iii) and show forced interest)

So, SCT beliefs that you (i.e. your thoughts) are organised through these four key structures. What furthermore affects you though are


1) Schemas – set of knowledge/rules about something, expectations, product of your own experiences

  • self-schemas: organised knowledge about yourself
    • impacts – incorporation of feedback

i) self-enhancement: focus on good information when good and bad are present
ii) self-verification: ‘confirmation bias’ – hold on to good/bad information (e.g. when you do something good you think it’s just look but you’re actually still bad at it – can lead to health problems!)
iii) ideal vs ought self: schema of your ideal self vs behaviours you should do

2) Self-regulations; we are active agents that can reflect and act and thus motivate ourselves. An active and self-directed process involves a) setting goals b) avoiding distractions c) monitoring progress and c) looking to the future

a) motivation: your (un)satisfaction

One comment on “Social Cognitive Theory (for Personality) (P8)

  1. Pingback: Psychology (undergrad level) | My mind, my thoughts, my words

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