From Behaviorism to Social Cognition??

In textbooks and throughout the Internet, Professor Bandura is often mistakenly identified as a "neo-behaviorist" of sorts, or even as a theorist who has somehow metamorphised from behaviorism to social cognitivism or to constructivism. Alas, this is simply a fiction.

When the Professor was asked to comment on this typical misconception, he addressed it this way:

       "At the time of my graduate training, the entire field of psychology was behaviorally oriented with an almost exclusive focus on the phenomenon of learning. But I never really fit the behavioral orthodoxy. At the time virtually all of the theorizing and research centered on learning through the effects of reinforcing outcomes. In my first major program of research, I argued against the primacy of conditioning in favor of observational learning, in which people neither emit responses nor receive reinforcements during the process of learning. Indeed, my first major publication was a lengthy chapter on 'Social Learning Through Imitation' in the 1962 Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, in which I conceptualize observational learning as mediated through perceptual and cognitive processes. On pages 260-261 of this chapter, I present a parody on how trying to shape auto driving skills through operant conditioning would unshape the driver and the surrounding environment! I rejected Miller and Dollard's view of imitation as merely a special case of instrumental conditioning. While behaviorists were plotting learning curves as a function of number of reinforced trials, I published a chapter on 'No trial learning' in a volume edited by Berkowitz."

       "During this period, behaviorists were championing the shaping and control of human behavior by rewarding and punishing consequences. I began a second major program of research on the capacity for self-directedness to regulate one's own behavior through personal standards and self-reactive influences. The initial studies on the acquisition of self-evaluative standards for self-directedness were reported in the 1963 book with Richard Walters on Social Learning and Personality Development."

       "In the early writings I acknowledged the phenomena encompassed under the labels of conditioning and reinforcement. But what text writers and those relying on secondary sources were missing is that I conceptualized these phenomena as operating through cognitive processes. 'Reinforcement' affected behavior by instilling outcome expectations rather than by stamping in responses. See pages 16-22 in Social Learning Theory (1977). I also conceptualized instrumental and classical conditioning in terms of acquisition of expectancies rather than coupling responses to stimuli. See chapter 10 in Principles of Behavior Modification entitled, 'Symbolic Control of Behavioral Changes.'"

       "The theorizing that is currently in vogue attributes behavior to multilevel subpersonal neural networks devoid of any consciousness, subjectivity, or self-identity. While this line of theorizing views humans as high-level automatons, I have been emphasizing the exercise of human agency."

       "The explanatory issue of interest is not my transformation from behaviorism to sociocognitivism, but rather why authors of psychological texts continue to mischaracterize my approach as rooted in behaviorism. You ask how I would describe my early position? Social cognitivism. It emphasized that learning is embedded in social networks and that environmental influences are largely mediated through cognitive processes. To correct another error in many textbooks, I was not a student of Kenneth Spence. He was the dominant force in the Iowa Department, but Arthur Benton was my academic advisor."