Albert Bandura

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Canadian-born Albert Bandura, one of the most-cited psychologists of all time, at Stanford university
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See also Behaviourism | Benjamin Bloom | Cognitivism | Famous learning theorists in history | Jean Piaget | Social learning theory | Teaching library users‎

"Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura is the world's authority on role modeling and how role models influence behavior and what makes a parent or a peer or a celebrity influence the people who are observing them."

Albert Bandura (1925 — ), American psychologist and social learning theorist, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology in 1949 from the University of British Columbia, a master of arts degree (1951) and a PhD in clinical psychology (1952) from the University of Iowa. Bandura was born in Alberta, Canada and worked in nothern Alberta and the Yukon before attending UBC. After earning his PhD in Iowa, he was offered a position at Stanford University which he accepted (even though it meant resigning from another position). Bandura stayed at Stanford for his entire career where he is now an emeritus professor. He holds the David Starr Jordan Professorship of Social Science in Psychology. During his early work on aggression, Bandura became increasingly interested in vicarious learning, modelling behaviours and imitation. Bandura's books and articles are highly-influential in the field of psychology, motivation and learning. He is the fourth most-frequently cited psychologist of all time, behind Skinner, Freud and Jean Piaget, and is the most cited living one. He has been described as one of the most influential psychologists of all time. Bandura's research has informed debates about the impact of television violence on society, aggression and anti-social behaviours and how they are modelled, and the the teaching of prosocial behaviours. Bandura is best known for his theory of modelling and his work into the importance of self-efficacy in effective cognition and learning.

His major contributions

  • Bandura’s groundbreaking text is Social Foundations of Thought and Action (1986). His earlier works are Social Learning Theory (1977) and Social Learning and Personality Development (1963), the latter written with Richard Walters (one of his former graduate students).
  • Bandura developed and defined social cognitive theory which proposes that people are neither driven by inner forces nor automatically shaped by external stimuli. In fact, people learn from one another via observation, imitation and modeling. The theory is a bridge between behaviourist and cognitive learning theories as it encompasses attention, memory and motivation.
  • Many behaviours are learned by modelling; for example, children who watch their parents reading, students who watch their peers studying or young professionals who watch their mentors work hard. Aggression may be learned through modelling; children are more aggressive when observing aggressive or violent modelling. Children observe those around them and how they behave. Bandura illustrated how this principle works in the bobo doll experiment.
  • Bandura (and Walters) found hyper-aggressive teens often had parents who modeled hostile behaviours. Although they did not tolerate aggression at home, they demanded their sons were tough and settled disputes physically if necessary. These parents displayed aggression towards the school system, and other kids whom they believed were giving their sons a difficult time. The youngsters modelled the aggressive, hostile attitudes of their parents.
  • Bandura listed four conditions necessary for modelling behaviours: a person pays attention to someone; the observer remembers what they observed; the third is the ability to replicate the behaviour; the final condition is motivation as learners must want to demonstrate what they have learned.
  • Bandura said behaviours influence both environment and person. Variables such as person, behaviour and environment influence each other.
  • Bandura developed a social cognitive theory which gives a central role to self-regulatory, vicarious and self-reflective learning processes in human adaptation. The theory is rooted in an agentic perspective. In other words, people are self-organizing, proactive and self-regulating organisms.
  • Bandura believed that modeling continues throughout life. Humans begin their modeling behaviors and social interactions early in life. This translates into teaching with technology in a variety of ways. Modeling is a key component in teaching students the appropriate behaviors and responses in social media spaces.
  • Self-efficacy is an important concept in Bandura's work. Through self-efficacy a person can believe what they can accomplish. Without self-efficacy success is difficult.

Quotes by Bandura

  • ""Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling..."
  • "Of the many cues that influence behavior, at any point in time, none is more common than the actions of others."
  • "What people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave. The natural and extrinsic effects of their actions, in turn, partly determine their thought patterns and affective reactions."
  • ""Most human behavior is learned through example, either intentionally or accidentally."
  • "Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action."
  • "People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided."
  • "People who believe they have the power to exercise some measure of control over their lives are healthier, more effective and more successful than those who lack faith in their ability to effect changes in their lives."
  • "The content of most textbooks is perishable, but the tools of self-directness serve one well over time."
  • "Behavior, cognitive, and other personal factors, and environmental influences all operate interactively as determinants of each other."
  • "If you look at our theories of social pathology and then at the dismal conditions in which children grow up in our ghettos, you would predict that all of them would be on drugs or psychological basket cases. Yet if you use criteria like gainful employment, forming partnerships and life without crime, you will find that most of those kids make it."


  • Bandura's theories emphasize interactions between environment and individuals. Thus, we are determined by our environment which when changed will change our behaviours. However, for some people, behaviours are more consistent regardless of environment and that simple changes in environment do not necessarily lead to changes in behaviours.
  • Social learning theory places considerable emphasis on cognitive abilities such as modelling and forming expectations but ignores biological or hormonal determinants which have also been shown to affect behaviours. Bandura's work also avoids discussion of innate genetic differences and differences in learning abilities.
  • Bandura's experiment of the Bobo doll showed that similar behaviours were learned by modelling the behaviours of others. The experiment is credited with helping shift the focus in academic psychology from pure behaviorism to cognitive psychology. The Bobo doll experiment emphasized how young individuals are influenced by adults. When adults were praised for aggressive behaviours, the children were more likely to keep hitting the doll. If adults were punished, the children stopped hitting the doll. The experiment is among the most discussed of psychological experiments. It was criticized by some on ethical grounds.
  • Critics of Bandura’s work in aggression say that showing aggression towards an inflated doll is not the same as attacking someone and that children know the difference. Other researchers have examined the effect of modeled violence on real aggression. In a study using Bandura’s Bobo doll method, children observed a violent adult model and were exposed to high levels of frustration. When this occurred, they often showed aggressive behaviours against a live person, whether that person was the source of the frustration or not.
  • Many psychologists point to the negative influence of video games and television on children. Because children model behaviours via observation, even vicariously, it has is thought that watching violent television shows leads to antisocial behaviour replication. This has not been proven and remains a contested area of psychology.

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