Difference Between Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism (With Table)

In the reciprocation to the depth psychology, Behaviourism arose. This was the initial time of twentieth century. However, explicitly the social cognitive theory took its establishment around 1970s. Because they focus on acquired behaviour. Both these theories, Social Cognitive Theory, additionally with behaviourism are two theories in psychology that focus on learning. Both of these viewpoints attempt to explain how behaviour is learnt, then strengthened or decreased through time.

Within these two views, many concepts are identical, and their application and contributions to human understanding and societal betterment are equally essential. Even though they deal with the same subject, their approaches and ideologies are completely different. Both of the theories are experimented in variety of ways. Furthermore, in current time, both have diverse applicability in lively or real life. In the following parts, we’ll go over more about social cognitive theory and behaviourism, as well as how they differ.

Social Cognitive Theory vs Behaviorism

The difference between Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism is that Albert Bandura is the proponent of the former. B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, and John Watson, on the other hand, are proponents of behaviourism. Learning is accomplished through the interaction of environmental, behavioural, and personal factors in Social Cognitive Theory. However, in the case of Behaviourism, it is accomplished through environmental factors. Although Social Cognitive Theory is a learning theory, Behaviorism is a type of psychological approach. However, it can be considered as a learning theory as well.

Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment is an example of framed experiments in Social Cognitive Theory. 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.

Behaviourism is utilised in the diagnosis of mental health illnesses, which includes depression. 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. Classic conditioning, stimulus-response behaviour, and other behavioural concepts are at the heart of behaviourism.

Comparison Table Between Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism

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. This theory differs from other social learning theorists and behaviourists in that it places a greater focus on cognitive factors.

Even though Bandura is a behaviourist, he takes a different approach to learn new habits than orthodox behaviourists. Observational learning, in his view, is how humans acquire new behaviours. A mix of cognitive and contextual factors influence the likelihood that these acts will be repeated.

Furthermore, Bandura views humans as having competence and agency. 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. Learning occurs as a result of a mechanism known as triadic reciprocal determinism, in which personal behaviour, traits, and environment all influence one another.

What is Behaviorism?

Behaviourism is a psychology 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. It was not until the publication of John Watson’s 1913 piece Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It. Additionally, the writings of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov that it became a dominant force in psychology.

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. This is primarily to advance psychology as natural science, as behaviourists put it.

Main Differences Between Social Cognitive Theory and Behaviorism

  1. The man who proposed or advocated Social Cognitive Theory is Albert Bandura. On the other hand, the proponents of Behaviourism are B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov and John Watson.
  2. The application of Social Cognitive Theory can be seen in children’s socialization and media modelling. However, Behaviorism can be seen in the treatment of illness related to the mind, such as depression.
  3. Social Cognitive Theory consists of framed experiments such as the Bobo Doll experiment of Albert Bandura. However, Behaviorism consists of framed experiments such as ‘Little Albert’, dog experiments by Pavlov and pigeon and rats experiment by Skinner.
  4. Social cognitive theory is a type of theory which gives importance on learning . On the other hand, Behaviorism belongs to a psychological approach, however it is a learning theory as well.
  5. Observational learning, triadic reciprocal determination and self-efficiency are the core concepts provided by Social Cognitive Theory. On the other hand, the core concepts of Behaviourism consists of classical conditioning, stimulus-response behaviour and many more.
  6. In the case of Social Cognitive Theory, learning is done via interaction between environmental, behavioural and personal factors. Howe ver, the case of Behaviourism is done via environmental factors.


The field of psychology is very dynamic. It consists of various theories and postulates which are of extream importance to understand the basic man kind. Different theories were put forward by different scientists and observers. Two among the many theories are, Behaviourism, which basically deals with diagnosis of mental health. The second that we discussed above in the article is Social Cognitive Theory.

Both of these theories that we discussed above puts emphasis on behaviour which can be observed. They focus to understand the dynamism behind human being’s behaviour. Although, in psychological literature, both the theories are relatively new. While discussing social cognitive theory, it should be noticed that it studies on the interaction between various factors pertaining to change in human behaviour. The sole motto of Behaviourism is to convert a psychological fact into a physical or natural science.


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-27834-001
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=sj_qg_fHP2oC&oi=fnd&pg=PA33&dq=Social+Cognitive+Theory+and+Behaviorism&ots=7XWwu_m13S&sig=06EGadi_c1zdXP0wcGY683VFAao
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