“Social” and “Cognitive” Terms in Social Cognitive Theory

What Kind of Interaction Exists between the ‘Social’ and the ‘Cognitive’ in Social Cognitive Theory?

According to the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), three factors determine the behavior change. The first is individual characteristics. A person changes only when they believe that they have the capability or self-efficacy to do so. The second is environmental factors. The individual’s physical and social environment models their behavior, which determines whether they will change or not. The third factor is the reciprocal determinism process. The process includes the interaction between the person and their environment. The individual is exposed to sources of external stimuli. The exposure makes them adjust their behavior accordingly.

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In SCT, there are three forms of interactions. They include the interaction between the person and their behavior, the interaction between the person and the environment, and the interaction between the person’s behavior and the environment.

The first is determined by the nature of the individual’s actions and thoughts. According to the SCT theory, this is the cognitive aspect of the process. The second form of interaction is determined by cognitive competencies and human beliefs, which are created and adjusted to fit into the social and physical environment. In the third form of interaction, the behavior of the person determines the environmental aspects. The environment modifies their behavior.

However, the interaction does not imply that the individual’s behavior depends on situations only. It is a fact beyond doubt that one behaves differently under different circumstances. People construe situations differently, which means that a single stimulus may elicit different reactions from different people. A single stimulus may also elicit different reactions from the same person under different circumstances. In this regard, behavior change involves the interaction between the environment and the individual’s cognitive competencies.

What is the Difference between ‘Social Behavior’ and ‘Cognitive Behavior’ in Social Cognitive Theory?

According to the social cognitive theory, behavior results from the individual’s interactions with a group of people. The social context is very important in behavior change. Meanings and knowledge are generated in a social setting and are determined by social discourse. In this regard, effective change in behavior takes place only when there is an interactive process of negotiation, discussion, and sharing.

Such theorists as Vyotsky and Piaget pointed out that the abilities and materials needed for intellectual development are inherent to the person. However, it is only through interaction with the environment that such abilities are developed into mental strategies and processes. Curiosity initiates the learning, unlearning, and relearning processes. As a person interacts with other people, they are challenged to behave in a certain manner. People obtain information from others. The information is then internalized and used to regulate the individual’s performance and change in behavior.

The cognitive aspect of SCT acknowledges the significance of mental processes in change. The processes are the most important stimuli-response regulators. Advocates of this theory are of the view that behavior change is a mental process. In this regard, a person evaluates stimuli based on their beliefs, memories, and expectations. As a result, a cognitive appraisal determines the individual’s response to stimuli.

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An individual changes their behavior based on five factors. The first is the competencies. The factor includes the skills gathered over the years. The second is the encodings. Encodings refer to the way different people categorize and perceive experiences. The third is the expectancies. The factor includes the different expectations people develop through learning. The fourth is values, where different people attach different values to different stimuli. The last is the plans. After learning, people come up with rules and plans to determine their behavior.

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