Albert Bandura’s personality theory

Psychologist and theorist Albert Bandura was born in Canada in the late 1925s. On the verge of entering the 1950s, Bandura received a degree in psychology from Columbia University.

Given his brilliant record, in 1953 he began teaching at the prestigious Stanford University. Years later, Bandura held the post of APA president (American Psychological Association).

His theories are still valid today, and in Psychology and the mind We have already echoed some of them:

  • “Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory”

  • “Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy”

Personality Theory: Context and Context

the behaviorism is a school of psychology that emphasizes the importance of experimental methods and seeks to analyze observable and measurable variables. Therefore, he also tends to reject all aspects of psychology that cannot be grasped, all of them subjective, internal and phenomenological.

The usual procedure that uses the experimental method is the manipulation of some variables, to later evaluate the effects on another variable. Because of this understanding of the human psyche and the tools available to assess personality, the Albert Bandura’s personality theory it gives greater relevance to the environment as a genesis and key modulator of the behavior of each individual.

A new concept: reciprocal determinism

During his first years of research, Albert Bandura specialized in the study of the phenomenon of aggression in adolescents. He soon realized that while observable elements were crucial in establishing a solid and scientific basis for the study of certain phenomena, and without giving up the principle that it is the environment that causes human behavior, another reflection could also be made.

The atmosphere certainly causes the behavior, however the behavior also causes the atmosphere. This fairly innovative concept was called reciprocal determinism: Material reality (social, cultural, personal) and individual behavior are provoked by each other.

Psychological processes complete the equation (from behaviorism to cognitivism)

Months later, Bandura took it one step further and began to value personality as a complex interplay between three elements: environment, behavior and individual psychological processes. These psychological processes capture the human ability to retain images in the mind and aspects of language.

This is a key aspect for understanding Albert Bandura, because by introducing this last variable, he abandons the orthodox behaviorist postulates and begins to address the ‘ cognitivism. In fact, Bandura is currently considered one of the fathers of cognitivism.

Adding imagination and language aspects to his understanding of the human personality, Bandura starts from much more complete elements than pure behaviorists, such as BF Skinner. Thus, Bandura will analyze crucial aspects of the human psyche: the learn by observation (Also called modeling) and the self-regulation.

Observational learning (modeling)

Among the many studies and research carried out by Albert Bandura, there is one that has been (and still is) the subject of special attention. the stupid doll studies. The idea came from a video recorded by one of her students, where a girl repeatedly hit an egg-shaped inflatable doll called “Bobo”.

The girl took pity on the doll without mercy, shouting “stupid!”. He hit her, both with punches and a hammer, and accompanied these aggressive actions with insults. Bandura showed the video to a group of children at a nursery, who enjoyed the video. Later, after the video session was over, the children were taken to a playroom, where a silly new doll and small hammers awaited them. Obviously, they were also in the room Bandura and their collaborators, analyzing the behavior of the children.

the children It didn’t take long for them to grab the hammers and start hitting the stupid doll, mimicking the insults of the girl in the video. So, shouting “stupid!”, They copied all the “misdeeds” they had seen a few minutes before.

While the findings of this experiment may not seem very surprising, they served to confirm several things: the children changed their behavior without any reinforcement aimed at achieving that behavior. It won’t be an extraordinary reflection for a parent or teacher who has shared time with the children, but nonetheless yes created a schism regarding behavioral learning theories.

Bandura called this phenomenon “learning by observing” (or modeling). You can learn more about his learning theory through this summary:

“Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory”

Modeling: analyzing its components

Attention, retention, reproduction and motivation

The systematic study and variations of the stupid doll test allowed Albert Bandura to establish the different steps involved in the modeling process.

1. Attention

If you want to learn something, you have to Pay attention. Likewise, anything that is a barrier to maximum attention will result in worse learning.

For example, if you are trying to learn something but your mental state is not the best for you (because you are half asleep, feeling bad, or taking drugs), your degree of d The acquisition of new knowledge will be affected. The same goes if you have distracting elements.

The object we are paying attention to also has certain characteristics that can attract more (or less) our attentional focus.

2. Retention

No less important to pay proper attention, it is to be able to hold back (Remember, memorize) what we are studying or trying to learn. It is at this point that language and imagination play an important role: we retain what we have seen in the form of pictures or verbal descriptions.

Once we have stored the knowledge, images and / or descriptions in our mind, we are able to consciously remember this data, so that we can replicate what has been learned and even repeat it, modulating our behavior.

3. Reproduction

When we get to this stage, we need to be able to decode the images or descriptions retained so that they are used to change our behavior in the present.

It is important to understand that when we learn to do something that requires mobilization of our behavior, we must be able to reproduce the behavior. For example, you can spend a week watching ice skating videos, but not even being able to put on skates without falling to the ground. You can’t skate!

But if on the contrary you are good at ice skating, it is likely that repeatedly watching videos in which skaters do better jumps and spins than you will improve your skills.

It is also important in reproductive matters to know that our ability to mimic behaviors gradually improves as we practice the skills involved in a given task. Additionally, our abilities tend to improve with just imagining ourselves performing the behavior. This is called “mental training” and is widely used by athletes and athletes to improve their performance.

4. Motivation

the motivation this is a key aspect when learning those behaviors that we want to emulate. You have to have reasons and reasons for wanting to learn something, otherwise it will be more complicated to focus attention, to retain and to reproduce these behaviors.

According to Bandura, the most common reasons why we want to learn something, son:

  • past reinforcement, Like classical behaviorism. Something we loved learning before has more ballots to enjoy now.

  • Reinforcements promised (incentives)All those future benefits that make us want to learn.

  • Vicar support, Which gives us the possibility of recovering the model in reinforcement.

These three reasons relate to what psychologists have traditionally considered to be the things that “trigger” learning. Bandura explains that these elements are not so much the “causes” as the “reasons” for wanting to learn. A subtle but relevant difference.

Of course, the negative motivations they can also exist, and push us not to imitate certain behaviors:

  • past punishment

  • Promised punishment (threats)

  • proxy punishment

Self-regulation: another key to understanding the human personality

the self-regulation (Simply put, the ability to control, regulate, and model our own behavior) is the other fundamental key to personality. In his theory, Bandura emphasizes these three steps towards self-regulation:

1. Self-observation

We perceive ourselves, we assess our behavior and this serves to establish a coherent body (or not) of what we are and do.

2. Judges

We compare our behaviors and attitudes with some standards. For example, we often compare our actions with culturally acceptable actions. Or we are also able to create new acts and habits, like going for a run every day. In addition, we can instill the courage to compete with others, even with ourselves.

3. Auto-answer

If in the comparison that we make with our standards we do well, we give each other positive reward responses ourselves. In case the comparison makes us uncomfortable (because we don’t match what we think is right or desirable), we give punishment responses. These responses can range from the more purely behavioral (staying to work late or apologizing to the boss), to the more emotional and secret aspects (being ashamed, defending yourself, etc.).

One of the important parts of psychology and used to understand the process of self-regulation is self-concept (also known as self-esteem). If we look back and perceive that we have acted throughout our life more or less according to our values ​​and that we have lived in an environment that has given us rewards and praise, we will have a good self-image and therefore high esteem. Conversely, if we have not lived up to our values ​​and standards, it is likely that we have a poor self-image or low self-esteem.


Albert Bandura and his theory of personality based on behavioral and cognitive aspects involved in learning and behavioral acquisition have had a major impact on personality theories and psychological therapy. His theses, based on behavioral postulates but integrating innovative elements allowing a better explanation of phenomena linked to the human personality, have earned him wide recognition in the scientific community.

His approach to personality was not just theoretical but priority action and solution to practical problems linked, above all, to learning from childhood and adolescence, but also to other areas of great depth.

Scientific psychology seems to have found in behavioralism, at the time when Bandura was taking his first steps as a teacher, a privileged place in the academic world, where the knowledge base is extracted through measurable studies. Behaviorism was the approach preferred by the vast majority, because it was based on the observable and put aside the mental or phenomenological aspects, unobservable and therefore not coupled with the scientific method.

However, in the late 1960s and thanks to figures such as Albert Bandura, behaviorism gave way to the “cognitive revolution”. the cognitive psychology unites the experimental and positivist orientation of behaviorism, but without kidnapping the researcher in the study of observable behaviors from the outside, because it is precisely the mental life of people that must always remain in the orbit of what it is about to investigate psychology.

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