Social Cognitive Theory vs Behaviorism: Difference and Comparison

In the reciprocation to depth psychology, Behaviourism arose. This was the initial time of the twentieth century. However, explicitly the social cognitive theory took its establishment around the 1970s.

Within these two views, many concepts are identical, and their application and contributions to human understanding and societal betterment are equally essential.

Key Takeaways

  1. Social Cognitive Theory emphasizes the role of cognitive processes and social interactions in shaping behavior, while Behaviorism focuses on the relationship between environmental stimuli and observable behavior.
  2. Social Cognitive Theory emphasizes the importance of observational learning, self-efficacy, and goal setting, while Behaviorism focuses on the principles of reinforcement and punishment.
  3. Social Cognitive Theory takes a more holistic approach to behavior change, while Behaviorism focuses on specific behavior modifications.

Social Cognitive Theory vs Behaviorism

Social interactions among people that help in shaping their behaviour are called social cognitive theory. It mainly focuses on observational learning. Personal factors are also included in this learning approach. The approach to learning something through environmental factors is called behaviourism. Problems related to the mind, like stress or depression, can also be treated through this learning approach. 

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Social Cognitive Theory’s core concepts include observational learning, triadic reciprocal determination, and self-efficiency. Behaviourism is a psychological concept as well as a learning theory.


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Behaviourism is based on framed experiments like ‘Little Albert,’ Pavlov’s dog experiments, and Skinner’s pigeon and rat experiments. Behaviourism is a psychological concept as well as a learning theory.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSocial Cognitive TheoryBehaviourism
ProponentAlbert Bandura.B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov and John Watson.
ApplicationChildren’s socialization and media modelling.Treatment of illness related to mind, such as depression.
Framed experimentsBobo Doll experiment of Albert Bandura.‘Little Albert’, dog experiments by Pavlov and pigeon and rats experiment by Skinner.
NatureA learning theory.A psychological approach and a learning theory.
Core conceptsObservational learning, triadic reciprocal determination and self-efficiency.Classical conditioning, stimulus-response behaviour.
LearningLearning is done via interaction between environmental, behavioural and personal factors.Learning is done via environmental factors.

What is Social Cognitive Theory?

Albert Bandura proposed this theory in his book called, “Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory”. This book was published in 1986.

Even though Bandura is a behaviourist, he takes a different approach to learning new habits than orthodox behaviourists. Observational learning, in his view, is how humans acquire new behaviours.

Furthermore, he used the term “self-efficiency.” It solely refers to one’s belief in one’s own potential to manufacture and act appropriately in any given situation.

What is Behaviorism?

Behaviourism is a psychological approach and a learning view that claims that behaviour is learnt by conditioning. In this process, the environment continuously influences a habit, either weakening or strengthening it.

 Although behaviourism can be found in psychological writings dating back to the late 1800s, many theorists have contributed to this body of knowledge.

In terms of psychology, behaviourism rejects concepts like mental processes and unconscious motivations that aren’t visible instead of focusing on behaviour that can be monitored and controlled.

Main Differences Between Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism

  1. Observational learning, triadic reciprocal determination and self-efficiency are the core concepts provided by Social Cognitive Theory.
  2. In the case of Social Cognitive Theory, learning is done via interaction between environmental, behavioural and personal factors.

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