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Albert Bandura's Theory of Personality

Albert Bandura's Theory of Personality

June 12, 2024

The psychologist and theorist Albert Bandura was born in Canada at the end of the year 1925. About to enter the decade of the '50s, Bandura graduated in Psychology at Columbia University.

Given his brilliant record, in 1953 he began to teach at the prestigious Stanford University. Years later, Bandura held the position of president in APA (American Psychological Association).

His theories are still valid today, and in Psychology and Mind We have already echoed some of them:

"Albert Bandura's Theory of Social Learning"

"Albert Bandura's Theory of Self-efficacy"

The Theory of Personality: background and context

The behaviorism is a school of Psychology that emphasizes the importance of experimental methods and tries to analyze observable and measurable variables. Therefore, it tends to reject also all aspects of psychology that can not be grasped, all subjective, internal and phenomenological.

The usual procedure used by the experimental method is the manipulation of certain variables, to later assess the effects on another variable. Following this conception of the human psyche and the tools available to assess personality, the Theory of Personality of Albert Bandura It gives a greater relevance to the environment as genesis and key modulator of the behavior of each individual.

A new concept: the reciprocal determinism

During the first years as a researcher, Albert Bandura specialized in the study of the phenomenon of aggression in adolescents. He soon realized that, although the observable elements were crucial in establishing a solid and scientific basis for the study of certain phenomena, and without renouncing the principle that it is the environment that causes human behavior, another reflection could also be made. .

The environment causes the behavior, certainly, but the behavior also causes the environment . This concept, quite innovative, was called reciprocal determinism : the material reality (social, cultural, personal) and the individual behavior cause each other.

The psychological processes complete the equation (from behaviorism to cognitivism)

Months later, Bandura went a step further and began to value personality as a complex interaction between three elements: the environment, behavior and individual psychological processes . These psychological processes collect the human capacity to retain images in the mind and aspects related to language.

This is a key aspect to understand Albert Bandura, since by introducing this last variable he abandons the orthodox behavioral postulates and begins to approach the cognitivism . In fact, Bandura is currently considered to be one of the fathers of cognitivism.

Adding imagination and language-related aspects to his understanding of human personality, Bandura starts from a much more complete elements than pure behaviorists, like B.F. Skinner. Thus, Bandura will analyze crucial aspects of the human psyche: the learning by observation (also called modeling) and the self-regulation .

Observational learning (modeling)

Of the numerous studies and investigations carried out by Albert Bandura, there is one that was (and still is) the subject of special attention. The studies on bobo doll . The idea came from a video recorded by one of his students, where a girl repeatedly hit an inflatable egg shaped doll called "Bobo".

The girl poked mercilessly at the doll, while shouting "stupid!". He hit him, both with punches and with a hammer, and accompanied these aggressive actions with insults. Bandura taught the video to a group of children in a daycare center, who enjoyed the video. Later, once the video session was over, the children were taken to a game room, where a new bobo doll and small hammers awaited them. Obviously, Bandura and his collaborators were also in the room, analyzing the behavior of the offspring.

Children They soon grabbed the hammers and put to hit the bobo doll, mimicking the insults of the girl in the video . Thus, to the cry of "stupid!", They copied all the "misdeeds" they had seen minutes before.

Although the conclusions of this experiment may not seem very surprising, they served to confirm several things: the children changed their behavior without there being any reinforcement aimed at performing such behavior. This will not be an extraordinary reflection for any parent or teacher who has shared time with children, but nevertheless created a schism regarding behavioral learning theories .

Bandura called this phenomenon "learning by observation" (or modeling) .Your theory of learning can be known through this summary:

"Albert Bandura's Theory of Social Learning"

Modeling: analyzing its components

Attention, retention, reproduction and motivation

The systematic study and variations of the bobo doll test allowed Albert Bandura to establish the different steps involved in the modeling process .

1. Attention

If you want to learn anything, you should pay attention . Also, all the elements that pose an obstacle to pay the maximum possible attention, will result in a worse learning.

For example, if you are trying to learn something but your mental state is not the most suitable (because you are half asleep, you feel bad or you have taken drugs), your degree of acquisition of new knowledge will be affected. The same happens if you have distracting elements.

The object for which we pay attention also has certain characteristics that can attract more (or less) our attentional focus.

2. Retention

No less important than paying adequate attention, it is be able to retain (remember, memorize) what we are studying or trying to learn. It is at this point that language and imagination play an important role: we retain what we have seen in the form of images or verbal descriptions.

Once we have stored the knowledge, images and / or descriptions in our mind, we are able to consciously remember those data, so that we can reproduce what we have learned and even repeat it, modulating our behavior.

3. Reproduction

When we come to this step, we should be able to decode the images or descriptions retained to help us change our behavior in the present.

It is important to understand that, when learning to do something that requires a mobilization of our behavior, we must be able to reproduce the behavior. For example, you can spend a week watching ice skating videos, but not being able to put on some skates without falling to the ground. You do not know how to skate!

But if you can skate on ice, it is likely that the repeated visualization of videos in which skaters better than you perform jumps and pirouettes will result in an improvement of your abilities.

It is also important, with regard to reproduction, to know that our ability to imitate behaviors gradually improves the more we practice the skills involved in a given task. In addition, our abilities tend to improve with the simple fact of imagining ourselves performing the behavior. This is what is known as "Mental Training" and is widely used by athletes and athletes to improve their performance.

4. Motivation

The motivation it is a key aspect when it comes to learning those behaviors that we want to imitate. We must have reasons and reasons to want to learn something, otherwise it will be more complicated to focus attention, retain and reproduce these behaviors.

According to Bandura, the most frequent reasons why we want to learn something , are:

  • Last reinforcement , like classical behaviorism. Something that we liked to learn previously has more ballots to like now.
  • Promised reinforcements (incentives) , all those future benefits that push us to want to learn.
  • Vicarious reinforcement , that gives us the possibility of recovering the model as reinforcement.

These three reasons are linked to what psychologists have traditionally considered as the elements that "cause" learning. Bandura explains that such elements are not so much the "cause" as the "reasons" of wanting to learn. A subtle but relevant difference.

Of course, the negative motivations they can also exist, and they push us not to imitate certain behavior:

  • Past punishment
  • Punishment promised (threats)
  • Vicarious punishment

Self-regulation: another key to understanding the human personality

The self-regulation (that is, the ability to control, regulate and model our own behavior) is the other fundamental key to personality. In his theory, Bandura points to these three steps towards self-regulation :

1. Self-observation

We perceive ourselves, we evaluate our behavior and this serves to establish a coherent corpus (or not) of what we are and do.

2. Judgment

We compare our behaviors and attitudes with certain standards . For example, we usually compare our actions with culturally acceptable ones. Or we are also able to create new acts and habits, such as running every day. In addition, we can instill value for competing with others, or even with ourselves.

3. Self-response

If in the comparison we make with our standards, we are well off, we give ourselves positive reward responses to ourselves. In case the comparison creates discomfort (because we do not conform to what we think would be right or desirable), we give ourselves punishment responses . These responses can be from the most purely behavioral (stay working late or ask the boss for forgiveness), to more emotional and covert aspects (feeling of shame, self-defense, etc.).

One of the important elements in Psychology and that serve to understand the process of self-regulation is self-concept (also known as self-esteem). If we look back and perceive that we have acted throughout our lives more or less according to our values ​​and we have lived in an environment that has given us rewards and praise, we will have a good self-concept and therefore a high self-esteem. Conversely, if we have been unable to live up to our values ​​and standards, we are likely to have poor self-concept or low self-esteem.


Albert Bandura and his Theory of the Personality based on the behavioral and cognitive aspects involved in the learning and in the acquisition of behaviors had a great impact in the theories of the personality and in the psychological therapy. His theses, which started from behavioral postulates but embraced innovative elements that allowed to better explain the phenomena concerning the human personality, earned him wide recognition in the scientific community.

His approach to personality was not merely theoretical but rather prioritized the action and the solution to the practical problems linked, above all, to learning in childhood and adolescence, but also to other fields of great importance.

Scientific psychology seemed to have found in behaviorism, in the times when Bandura took its first steps as a teacher, a privileged place in the academic world, where the base of knowledge is extracted through measurable studies. Behaviorism was the approach preferred by the great majority, since it was based on the observable and left aside the mental or phenomenological aspects, unobservable and therefore not coupled to the scientific method.

However, at the end of the 60s and thanks to capital figures such as Albert Bandura, behaviorism has given way to the "cognitive revolution". The cognitive psychology it combines the experimental and positivist orientation of behaviorism, but without kidnapping the researcher in the study of externally observable behavior, since it is precisely the mental life of people that must always remain in the orbit of what Psychology seeks to investigate.

Albert Bandura Social Cognitive Theory and Vicarious Learning (June 2024).

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