Albert Bandura

(1925 - )

Compiled by Amanda Moore (May 1999)

Bandura Biography
Time Line

Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925 in the province of Alberta, Canada. His parents were Polish wheat farmers. He went to a small high school with only 20 students and 2 teachers. In 1949 Bandura received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia. Bandura then went on to the University of Iowa where he obtained his doctorate in 1952. Upon graduation Bandura did a clinical internship at the Wichita Kansas Guidance Center. The following year, in 1953, Bandura accepted a teaching position at Stanford where he continues to teach today. While at the University of Iowa Bandura's interests in learning and behaviorism began to grow.

Bandura has done a great deal of work on social learning throughout his career and is famous for his "Social Learning Theory" which he has recently renamed, "Social Cognitive Theory". Bandura is seen by many as a cognitive psychologist because of his focus on motivational factors and self-regulatory mechanisms that contribute to a person's behavior, rather than just environmental factors. This focus on cognition is what differentiates social cognitive theory from Skinner's purely behavioristic viewpoint.

Albert Bandura focuses on the acquisition of behaviors. He believes that people acquire behaviors through the observation of others, then imitate what they have observed. Several studies involving television commercials and videos containing violent scenes have supported this theory of modeling.

In 1986 Bandura wrote Social Foundations of Thought and Action which provides a framework of his social cognitive theory. In addition he has written many articles and a total of nine books on various topics in psychology. Bandura has made important contributions to the field of psychology, as seen in the many honors and awards he has received. Bandura has received several honorary degrees from universities all over the world. This year (1998) he will receive the Thorndike Award for Distinguished Contributions of Psychology to Education from the American Psychological Association.

Bandura has conducted many studies involving observational learning, or modeling. The modeling process includes several steps:
1) Attention- In order for an individual to learn anything, he or she must pay attention to the features of the modeled behavior. Many factors contribute to the amount of attention one pays to the modeled activities, such as the characteristics of both the observer and the person being observed and competing stimuli.
2) Retention- If an individual is to be influenced by observing behaviors he or she needs to remember the activities that were modeled at one time or another. Imagery and language aid in this process of retaining information. Humans store the behaviors they observe in the form of mental images or verbal descriptions, and are then able to recall the image or description later to reproduce the activity with their own behavior.
3) Reproduction- Reproduction involves converting symbolic representations into appropriate actions. Behavioral reproduction is accomplished by organizing one's own responses in accordance with the modeled pattern. A person's ability to reproduce a behavior improves with practice.
4) Motivation- To imitate a behavior, the person must have some motivating factor behind it, such as incentives that a person envisions. These imagined incentives act as reinforcers. Negative reinforcers discourage the continuation of the modeled activity.

Albert Bandura combines both behavioral and cognitive philosophies to form this theory of modeling, or observational learning. He sees the human personality as an interaction between the environment and a person's psychological processes. Bandura says that humans are able to control their behavior through a process known as self regulation. This process involves three steps:
1) Self observation- Humans look at themselves and their behavior and keep track of their actions.
2) Judgment- Humans compare these observations with standards. These standards can be rules set by society, or standards that the individual sets for him or herself.
3) Self response- If, after judging himself or herself, the person does well in comparison with the set standards, he or she will give him or her- self a rewarding self-response. If the person does poorly he or she then administers a punishing self-response to him or herself.
Self regulation has been incorporated into self control therapy which has been very successful in dealing with problems such as smoking.

One of Bandura's more famous experiments dealing with modeling is his study with Bobo dolls. In one particular experiment Bandura showed a video to children in which an adult beat up on a doll, called it names, etc. Bandura divided the children into three groups, and each group watched a video with a different ending. graph The first video showed the adult being rewarded for his behavior, the second video showed the adult being punished for his behavior, and the third video showed no consequences for the behavior. He then studied the differences between how male children and female children reacted to this video in regard to whether they imitated the observed behavior or not. The results are shown to the left. This graph represents the number of imitative responses by males and females after observing one of the three different videos. The results show that males in all cases imitated the viewed behavior more so than females. The results also show that the children who watched the video in which the person was rewarded for his actions duplicated the behaviors more so than when the person was punished or did not receive either a punishment or reward. This was consistent in both male and female children, supporting Bandura's argument that people learn from observing others.

Time Line
1925- Born in Mundane, Canada
1949- Received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia
1952- Received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa
1953- Accepts a teaching position at Stanford University where he continues to teach today
1959- Published Adolescent Aggression
1963- Conducted Bobo Doll experiment
1963- Published Social Learning and Personality Development
1969- Published Principles of Behavior Modification
1971- Published Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis
1972- Won the Guggenheim Fellowship Award
1974- Elected President of the American Psychological Association
1977- Developed the Cognitive Theory
1977- Published Social Learning Theory
1978- Published Psychological Modeling: Theory and Practice
1980- Won the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award
1986- Published Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory
1995- Published Self Efficacy in Changing Societies
In more recent years Bandura's research focus has switched to self- efficacy and self regulation.

Bandura, A. (1971). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall.
Chapman, Conroy, and Sheehy, editors. (1997). Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. London: Routledge Press


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