Albert Bandura is a pioneering researcher of social modeling in the media (Zimmerman & Schunk 2002). He was born on December 4, 1925 in a rural hamlet in northern Alberta, Canada. He first achieved prominence as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia by winning the Bolocan Award in Psychology. After completing his doctorate at the University of Iowa, he accepted a faculty appointment at Stanford University, where he has remained for more than 50 years. He was elected President of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1974, and has won numerous awards for his research, such as the William James Award and the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Psychological Science of the APA.
Bandura’s initial research focused on the mechanisms governing observational learning of aggression, which he reported in a book entitled Social learning and personality development. In a series of seminal experiments using an inflated “Bobo” doll, he found that children readily imitated a social model’s aggressive behavior toward the doll when they had an opportunity to interact with it. This vicarious increase in aggression occurred after viewing either live or electronically mediated models. At the time, it was widely believed that modeled violence would have a cathartic effect and diminish an observer’s aggressive drives rather than increase them. Bandura’s contrary findings immediately thrust him into a heated national debate on the effects of televised violence on children. He was invited to testify before numerous congressional committees and national commissions on his research findings.
A second focus of Bandura’s modeling research involved children’s development of selfregulatory capabilities. In a book entitled Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory (1986), he discussed research indicating that children readily adopted high standards for self-reward after observing a model justify and adhere to those standards. He also found that children who observed a model forgo small immediate rewards for larger long-term rewards were more likely to wait for the delayed rewards than nonobservers. Clearly, these social learning experiences led children to internalize important standards that significantly affected their self-regulation and motivation. Bandura also discussed research on the pervasive role of modeling in children’s cognitive and linguistic development (Rosenthal & Zimmerman 1978). The importance of this cognitive dimension of social learning experiences led him to expand its role in his theory, to rename his approach “social cognitive,” and to focus his subsequent research more directly on cognitive elements of observational learning, such as changes in self-beliefs of observers. He was particularly interested in an observer’s perceived capabilities to learn or perform a particular task, which he labeled self-efficacy beliefs. Bandura’s innovative research on these beliefs culminated in a 1997 book entitled Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. His theoretical analyses broadened scientific understanding of the diverse effects of social modeling experiences on an observer’s self-efficacy beliefs and self-regulatory attainment.
Because of recent advances in communication technology, such as the growth in cable television, the impact of social modeling has expanded. Drawing on Bandura’s research, Miguel Sabido (1981), a producer at Televisia in Mexico City, developed serial dramas to promote society-wide changes, such as improved national literacy and family planning in Mexico. The programs portrayed people’s daily lives and the problems they face, and modeled strategies for overcoming them and vicarious incentives for adopting the modeled solutions. David Poindexter (2004), Director of Population Communication International, adopted the Sabido’s serial drama method as a new focus of his organization. This methodology applied principles from social cognitive theory to raise the status of women, curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS infection, and foster environmental conservation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
These worldwide applications demonstrated how the modeling experiments contributed to unforeseen applications to alleviate some of the most urgent global problems. These applications involved the integration of social cognitive theory and social diffusion theory regarding three key components, which include processes that govern the acquisition of knowledge and innovative patterns of behavior, the adoption of the innovations in practice, and the social networks through which they spread. Bandura formed a productive partnership with Everett Rogers (1995), a pioneer in the study of the diffusion of innovations, to use the latest media to speed the adoption of modeled practices designed to alleviate human problems on a global scale.
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.
- Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
- Poindexter, D. O. (2004). A history of entertainment-education, 1958–2000. The origins of entertainment-education. In A. Singhal, M. J. Cody, E. M. Rogers, & M. Sabido, (eds.), Entertainment-education and social change: History, research, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 21–31.
- Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.
- Rosenthal, T. L., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1978). Social learning and cognition. New York:
- Academic Press. Sabido, M. (1981). Towards the social use of soap operas. Mexico City: Institute for Communication Research.
- Zimmerman, B. J., & Schunk, D. H. (2002). Albert Bandura: The man and his contributions to educational psychology. In B. J. Zimmerman & Dale H. Schunk (eds.), Educational psychology: A century of contributions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 431– 457.