Albert Bandura

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Albert Bandura OC
Albert Bandura Psychologist.jpg
Born (1925-12-04) December 4, 1925 (age 98)
Mundare, Alberta, Canada
Nationality Canadian/American
Fields Psychology, Philosophy of Action
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater University of British Columbia
University of Iowa
Known for Social cognitive theory
Social learning theory
Bobo doll experiment
Human agency
Reciprocal determinism
Influences Robert Sears, Clark Hull, Kenneth Spence, Arthur Benton. Neal Miller
Influenced Cognitive psychology, Social psychology

Albert Bandura OC (/bænˈdʊərə/; born December 4, 1925) is a psychologist who is the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. For almost six decades, he has been responsible for contributions to the field of education and to many fields of psychology, including social cognitive theory, therapy and personality psychology, and was also influential in the transition between behaviorism and cognitive psychology. He is known as the originator of social learning theory and the theoretical construct of self-efficacy, and is also responsible for the influential 1961 Bobo doll experiment.

Social learning theory is how people learn through observing others. An example of social learning theory would be the students imitating the teacher. Self-efficacy is "the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations." To paraphrase, self-efficacy is believing in yourself to take action. The Bobo Doll Experiment was how Albert Bandura studied aggression and non-aggression in children.

A 2002 survey ranked Bandura as the fourth most-frequently cited psychologist of all time, behind B. F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, and Jean Piaget, and as the most cited living one.[1] Bandura is widely described as the greatest living psychologist,[2][3][4][5] and as one of the most influential psychologists of all time.[6][7]

In 1974 Bandura was elected to be the Eighty-Second President of the American Psychological Association (APA). He was one of the youngest president-elects in the history of the APA at the age of 48. Bandura served as a member of the APA Board of Scientific Affairs from 1968 to 1970 and is well known as a member of the editorial board of nine psychology journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology from 1963 to 1972.[8] At the age of 82, Bandura was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for psychology.

Early life

Bandura was born in Mundare, in Alberta, a small town of roughly four hundred inhabitants, as the youngest child, and only son, in a family of six. The limitations of education in a remote town such as this caused Bandura to become independent and self-motivated in terms of learning, and these primarily developed traits proved very helpful in his lengthy career.[9] Bandura is of Ukrainian descent.

Bandura's parents were a key influence in encouraging him to seek ventures out of the small hamlet they resided in. The summer after finishing high school, Bandura worked in the Yukon to protect the Alaska Highway against sinking. Bandura later credited his work in the northern tundra as the origin of his interest in human psychopathology. It was in this experience in the Yukon, where he was exposed to a subculture of drinking and gambling, which helped broaden his perspective and scope of views on life.[10]

Bandura arrived in the US in 1949 and was naturalized in 1956. He married Virginia Varns (1921–2011) in 1952,[11] and they raised two daughters, Carol and Mary.[12]

Education and academic career

Bandura's introduction to academic psychology came about by a fluke; as a student with little to do in the early mornings, he took a psychology course to pass the time, and became enamored of the subject. Bandura graduated in three years, in 1949, with a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, winning the Bolocan Award in psychology, and then moved to the then-epicenter of theoretical psychology, the University of Iowa, from where he obtained his M.A. in 1951 and Ph.D. in 1952. Arthur Benton was his academic adviser at Iowa,[13] giving Bandura a direct academic descent from William James,[14] while Clark Hull and Kenneth Spence were influential collaborators. During his Iowa years, Bandura came to support a style of psychology which sought to investigate psychological phenomena through repeatable, experimental testing. His inclusion of such mental phenomena as imagery and representation, and his concept of reciprocal determinism, which postulated a relationship of mutual influence between an agent and its environment, marked a radical departure from the dominant behaviorism of the time. Bandura's expanded array of conceptual tools allowed for more potent modeling of such phenomena as observational learning and self-regulation, and provided psychologists with a practical way in which to theorize about mental processes, in opposition to the mentalistic constructs of psychoanalysis and personology.[7]

Post-doctoral work

Upon graduation, he completed his postdoctoral internship at the Wichita Guidance Center. The following year, 1953, he accepted a teaching position at Stanford University, which he holds to this day.[15] In 1974, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is the world's largest association of psychologists.[16] Bandura would later state the only reason he agreed to be in the running for the APA election was because he wanted his 15 minutes of fame without any intentions of being elected.[17]


Bandura was initially influenced by Robert Sears' work on familial antecedents of social behavior and identificatory learning. He directed his initial research to the role of social modeling in human motivation, thought, and action. In collaboration with Richard Walters, his first doctoral student, he engaged in studies of social learning and aggression. Their joint efforts illustrated the critical role of modeling in human behavior and led to a program of research into the determinants and mechanisms of observational learning.

Social learning theory

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The initial phase of Bandura's research analyzed the foundations of human learning and the willingness of children and adults to imitate behavior observed in others, in particular, aggression.

He found that according to Social Learning theory, models are an important source for learning new behaviors and for achieving behavioral change in institutionalized settings.[18]

Social learning theory posits that there are three regulatory systems that control behavior. First, the antecedent inducements greatly influence the time and response of behavior. The stimulus that occurs before the behavioral response must be appropriate in relationship to social context and performers. Second, response feedback influences also serve an important function. Following a response, the reinforcements, by experience or observation, will greatly impact the occurrence of the behavior in the future. Third, the importance of cognitive functions in social learning. For example, for aggressive behavior to occur some people become easily angered by the sight or thought of individuals with whom they have had hostile encounters, and this memory is acquired through the learning process.[19]


His research with Walters led to his first book, Adolescent Aggression in 1959, and to a subsequent book, Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis in 1973. During a period dominated by behaviorism in the mold of B.F. Skinner, Bandura believed the sole behavioral modifiers of reward and punishment in classical and operant conditioning were inadequate as a framework, and that many human behaviors were learned from other humans. Bandura began to analyze means of treating unduly aggressive children by identifying sources of violence in their lives. Initial research in the area had begun in the 1940s under Neal Miller and John Dollard; his continued work in this line eventually culminated in the Bobo doll experiment, and in 1977's hugely influential treatise, Social Learning Theory.[20] Many of his innovations came from his focus on empirical investigation and reproducible investigation, which were alien to a field of psychology dominated by the theories of Freud.

In 1961 Bandura conducted a controversial experiment known as the Bobo doll experiment, designed to show that similar behaviors were learned by individuals shaping their own behavior after the actions of models. Bandura's results from this experiment changed the course of modern psychology,[21] and were widely credited for helping shift the focus in academic psychology from pure behaviorism to cognitive psychology.[citation needed] Moreover, the Bobo doll experiment emphasized how young individuals are influenced by the acts of adults. When the adults were praised for their aggressive behavior, the children were more likely to keep on hitting the doll. However, when the adults were punished, they consequently stopped hitting the doll as well. The experiment is among the most lauded and celebrated of psychological experiments. However, the experiment was criticized by some on ethical grounds,[21] for training children towards aggression.

Social cognitive theory

By the mid-1980s, Bandura's research had taken a more holistic bent, and his analyses tended towards giving a more comprehensive overview of human cognition in the context of social learning. The theory he expanded from social learning theory soon became known as social cognitive theory.

Social foundations of thought and action

In 1986, Bandura published Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory (see article), in which he re-conceptualized individuals as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting, and self-regulating, in opposition to the orthodox conception of humans as governed by external forces. He advanced concepts of triadic reciprocality, which determined the connections between human behavior, environmental factors, and personal factors such as cognitive, affective, and biological events, and of reciprocal determinism, governing the causal relations between such factors. Bandura's emphasis on the capacity of agents to self-organize and self-regulate would eventually give rise to his later work on self-efficacy.


In 1963, he published Social Learning and Personality Development. In 1974, Stanford University awarded him an endowed chair and he became David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. In 1977, he published Social Learning Theory, a book that altered the direction psychology took in the 1980s.[21]

While investigating the processes by which modeling alleviates phobic disorders in snake-phobics, he found that self-efficacy beliefs (which the phobic individuals had in their own capabilities to alleviate their phobia) mediated changes in behavior and in fear-arousal. He launched a major program of research examining the influential role of self-referent thought in psychological functioning. Although he continued to explore and write on theoretical problems relating to myriad topics, from the late 1970s he devoted much attention to exploring the role of self-efficacy beliefs in human functioning.

In fact, in 2004 Bandura, in conjunction with Charles Benight, found that utilizing the same self-efficacy based beliefs that were implemented for his phobia studies produced similar results on people who suffered from severe debilitating trauma. It was not only found useful for the trauma suffered by natural disaster survivors, but also those returning veterans that suffer post-traumatic stress disorder that include pervasive hyper-vigilance and recurrent flashbacks. By establishing a perceived sense of control (self-efficacy) over their traumatic experience (cognitively or physically) the veterans and hurricane survivors were able to overcome their distress and trauma and move forward.[22]

In 1986 he published Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, a book in which he offered a social cognitive theory of human functioning that accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, self-regulatory and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change. This theory has its roots in an agentic perspective that views people as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating, not just as reactive organisms shaped by environmental forces or driven by inner impulses. His book, Self-efficacy: The exercise of control was published in 1997.

In addition to Bandura’s work on self-efficacy in relation to phobias and trauma, he also contributed, in 2008 with Caprara and colleagues, a significant amount to the study of self-efficacy in the education system. His focus was on the continuing technological explosion, in that with more information readily available than ever before the education system needs to focus on teaching students self-regulating efficacy. He argued that self-regulating efficacy is the focus on bolstering students belief that they can not only stay up to date with current technology, but also avoid becoming overwhelmed with its continual shift. He stated that this will be invaluable as jobs focus more on cognitive abilities as well as flexibility in light of technologies ever-changing use and applicability.[23]

Moral agency

Bandura applied his human agentic view via social cognitive theory for the personal and social aspects of control over moral values and conduct. In particular, he states that in the social cognitive theory of the moral self, moral reasoning is linked to moral action through affective self-regulatory mechanisms by which moral agency is exercised.[24] However these self-regulatory mechanisms have to be activated psychosocially. Bandura found interest in the role that human agency plays when a society does not have safeguards set against particular lapses in moral judgment that an individual finds justification, morally or otherwise.

First, all people are capable of two morally agentic abilities, to act humanely and to not act inhumanely. Selective moral disengagement occurs when a person actively disengages their self-regulating efficacy for moral conduct.[24]

Selective moral disengagement occurs via a “cognitive restructuring” of the inhumane acts into something justifiable. He states the specific processes in which this occurs, they are as follows: moral justification, sanitizing language, exonerative social comparison, disavowal of personal agency in the harm one causes by diffusion or displacement of responsibility, disregarding or minimizing the injurious effects of one’s actions, and attribution of blame to/dehumanization of those who are victimized.[24]

Bandura on education

Bandura's social learning theory contributes to students and teachers within the field of education. In 1986, Bandura changed the name of the social learning theory to social cognitive theory.[25] The social cognitive theory still focuses on how behavior and growth are affected by the cognitive operations that occur during social activities.[25] The key theoretical components of the social cognitive theory that are applied in education are self-efficacy, self-regulation, observational learning, and reciprocal determinism.

The social cognitive theory can be applied to motivation and learning for students and teachers.[26][27] Bandura's research shows that high perceived self-efficacy leads teachers and students to set higher goals and increases the likelihood that they will dedicate themselves to those goals.[26][28] In an educational setting self-efficacy refers to a student or teacher's confidence to participate in certain actions that will help him or her achieve distinct goals.[29] Self-regulation is the process by which an individual sets future goals and manages his or her behavior and plans to accomplish them.[29] It operates under individual everyday classroom functions such as goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-influence.[30] The social cognitive theory research offers support that modeling can be useful for incorporating new strategies into training for teachers.[26][28] According to Bandura's observational learning theory, students acquire self-regulative functions from observing models.[29] Observational learning occurs when students or teachers observe a well-trained model and experience increases in his or her knowledge and understanding.[29] Lastly, the mutual relationship between a student or teacher, his or her environment, and his or her behavior is pointed out as key components in Bandura's triadic reciprocal determinism theory.[25] The mutual relationships within reciprocal determinism point out what influences behavior and the results that will affect future thoughts.[25] In other words, when a student or teacher decides to replicate an observed behavior, that student or teacher's self-efficacy provides him or her with the confidence to attempt to perform the observed behavior. Self-regulation is the process he or she will use to set goals to perform the observed behavior. If the performed behavior leads to successful results, it will encourage him or her to perform similar behaviors again and validate his or her use of high self-efficacy.[28]


Bandura has received more than sixteen honorary degrees, including those from the University of British Columbia, Alfred University, the University of Rome, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Salamanca in Spain, Indiana University, the University of New Brunswick, Penn State University, Leiden University, and Freie Universität Berlin, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Universitat Jaume I in Spain, the University of Athens and the University of Catania.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.[16] He received the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from the American Psychological Association in 1980 for pioneering the research in the field of self-regulated learning.[31] In 1999 he received the Thorndike Award for Distinguished Contributions of Psychology to Education from the American Psychological Association, and in 2001, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Psychological Association, the James McKeen Cattell Award from the American Psychological Society, and the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Psychological Science from the American Psychological Foundation. In 2008, he received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for contributions to psychology.[32]

In 2014, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his foundational contributions to social psychology, notably for uncovering the influence of observation on human learning and aggression".[33]

Major books

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The following books have more than 5,000 citations in Google Scholar:

His other books are

  • Bandura, A., & Walters, R.H. (1959). Adolescent Aggression. Ronald Press: New York.
  • Bandura, A. (1962). Social Learning through Imitation. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE.
  • Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of behavior modification. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Bandura, A. (1971). Psychological modeling: conflicting theories. Chicago: Aldine·Atherton.
  • Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: a social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
  • Bandura, A. (1975). Social Learning & Personality Development. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, INC: NJ.
  • Bandura, A., & Ribes-Inesta, Emilio. (1976). Analysis of Delinquency and Aggression. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, INC: NJ.
  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. NY: W. H. Freeman and Company.


  1. Haggbloom S.J. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, Review of General Psychology, 6 (2). 139–152.
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  5. [1][dead link]
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  9. "Bandura, Albert." Psychologists and Their Theories for Students. Ed. Kristine Krapp. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 39–66. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
  10. [2]
  11. "Virginia Belle Bandura, Dec. 6, 1921 - Oct. 10, 2011, Stanford, California" at Lasting Memories: An online directory of obituaries and remembrances of Mid-peninsula Residents. (accessed 6 December 2012)
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  18. Henry P Sims Jr. & Charles C Manz (1982): Social Learning Theory, Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 3:4, 55–63.
  19. Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:Prentice-Hall.
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  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Cherry, Kendra. "Self Efficacy: Why Believing In Yourself Is So Important." What Is Self-Efficacy? 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <>.
  22. Benight, C.C. & Bandura, A. (2004). Social cognitive theory of post-traumatic recovery:The role of perceived self-efficacy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42 (10), 1129–1148
  23. Caprara. (2008). Longitudinal analysis of the role of perceived self-efficacy for self-regulatory learning in academic continuance an achievement, Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3) 525–534.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Bandura, A. (2002). Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education, 31 (2), 102.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Grusec, J.E. (1992). "Social learning theory and developmental psychology: The legacies of Robert Sears and Albert Bandura". Developmental Psychology, 28 (5), 776-786.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Golas, J. (2010. "Effective teacher preparation programs: Bridging the gap between educational technology availability and its utilization". "International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 6" (1), 16-18
  27. Bandura, A.; Barbaranelli, C. (1996). "Multifaceted impact of self-efficacy beliefs on academic functioning". Child Development, 67" (3), 1206-1222
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Bandura, A.; Wood, R. (1989). "Effect of perceived controllability and performance standards on self-regulation of complex decision making". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56 (5), 805-814
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Elrich, R.J.; Russ-Eft, D. (2011). "Applying social cognitive theory to academic advising to access students learning outcomes". NACADA Journal, 31 (2), 5-15
  30. Capara, G.; Fida, R.; Vecchione, M.; Del Bove, G.M.; Barbaranelli, C.; Bandura, A. (2008). "Longitudinal analysis of the role of perceived self-efficacy for self-regulated learning in academic continuance and achievement". "Journal of Educational Psychology, 100" (3), 525-534
  31. Barry Zimmerman. Dedication: Albert Bandura. Contemporary Educational Psychology (October 1986), 11 (4), pg. 306
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  • Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-815614-X
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  • Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of Child Development, 6. Six theories of child development (pp. 1–60). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
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  • Bandura, A., & Walters. Richard H. (1959). Adolescent aggression; a study of the influence of child-training practices and family interrelationships. New York: Ronald Press.
  • Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
  • Evans, R. I. (1989). Albert Bandura: The man and his ideas: A dialogue. New York: Praeger.
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  • Zimmerman, Barry J., & Schunk, Dale H. (Eds.)(2003). Educational psychology: A century of contributions. Mahwah, NJ, US: Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-3681-0
  • Great Canadian Psychology Website – Albert Bandura Biography
  • Albert Bandura discuses Moral Disengagement (in Russian)
  • Social learning theory and aggression

External links

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Educational offices
Preceded by 83rd President of the American Psychological Association
Succeeded by
Donald T. Campbell