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The King of Self-Efficacy
A Legend Has Passed
You may not recognize his name, but if you’ve ever contemplated possible links between violent video games and real-world carnage, his work would speak to you. If, as a teacher or parent, you’ve worried how a misbehaving child might influence another, you’d want to read one of his books. However, meeting him for a cuppa to discuss any of this, we no longer can. The legendary psychologist Albert “Al” Bandura died July 26th at the ripe age of 95.
For many years up until his death, Bandura was considered widely to be the greatest living psychologist. Although much of his most important research was done more than 20 years ago, Bandura’s work on Social Learning Theory is still being referenced regularly in psychological studies to this day.
His most famous study, the Bobo Doll Experiment, is covered by most all Intro to Psych students. In this study, conducted in 1961, Bandura demonstrated that children were highly influenced by the behaviors of adults around them. Children who witnessed an adult physically and verbally harassing an inflatable doll were much more likely to abuse that doll themselves when left alone with it. Furthermore, these children even demonstrated novel acts of aggression towards the doll. These results were not seen in either the control group with no prior exposure to the doll, or in a group in which an adult model either ignored, or behaved warmly, around it.
Indeed, the children who witnessed an aggressive adult model were also far more likely to play with a toy gun left in the lab, although this hadn’t been modeled for them. This group showed far less inhibition towards violent behavior than either of the other groups. (If you are interested in hearing a description of this experiment narrated by Bandura himself, click HERE.)
With his work on Social Learning Theory, Bandura demonstrated that there were more factors involved in influencing learning than just rewards and punishments. His groundbreaking work on behavioral modeling emphasized the importance of four main conditions necessary for modeling to occur:
In other words, children (and others) need to be cognizant of behavior being modeled around them, remember it, then have the physical ability to reproduce it, as well as the motivation to do so.
Bandura was also known for his work on self-efficacy, which he labeled as the belief one has in their ability to succeed in a given endeavor. These beliefs, according to Bandura, determine how we think, feel, and act. You can read more on self-efficacy HERE.
The power of Bandura’s 57 years of research resulted in numerous awards and recognitions, with one of the most recent being named a recipient of the National Medal of Science, presented by President Barack Obama in 2016. Although now gone, Bandura’s influence on the study of human and social development will live on for years to come.