Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura (b.1925) is an eminent psychologist. His pivotal work in the field of psychology has been acknowledged as a major turning point. Bandura heralded a paradigm shift in psychology with his departure from behaviorist explanations and his pioneering work that is today known as the social cognitive theory. He is also known for his contribution to educational psychology wherein he developed concepts such as self-efficacy and reciprocal determinism. According to an academic survey, Bandura is the fifth most frequently cited author in the professional literature of his field, and the third most frequently cited in introductory psychology textbooks. Additionally, Bandura figures in the top four (just after Sigmund Freud) in the above-mentioned survey’s list of the hundred most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.

Amongst his various works, the Bobo Doll Experiment conducted in 1961, is probably the most renowned. At the time, the Freudian understanding of catharsis was the dominant analysis that postulated that watching modeled violence would help to reduce the audience’s aggressive drives and violent behavior. In short, modeled violence was presumed to have a cathartic effect on the audience’s psyche. In the Bobo Doll experiment, rebounding bobo dolls were attacked and hit repeatedly by researchers with increasing violence in front of a group of children. Later, the children imitated this behavior with the Bobo dolls. This study has been instrumental in terms of its application. For instance, Bandura linked this form of social learning to the ill-effects of viewing violence on media such as television. In fact, Bandura testified before congressional committees regarding the same. This enabled the government to make an informed decision regarding standards on television. Today, one can easily see the linkages between the increasingly violent video games that promote overly sexualized images of women as objects and the consequent violent behavior they encourage. The importance of Bandura’s findings lies in its applicability to real social situations.

Bandura created the social cognition theory and added to the existing social learning theory. He developed concepts such as ‘reciprocal determinism’ and emphasized the importance of human agency through concepts like self-efficacy. According to reciprocal determinism, human beings are influenced by their environment and their own dispositions and, in turn, influence their environment themselves. This concept was a departure from the one-way or one-sided determinism that was prevalent in the field before. However, Bandura’s triadic model demonstrated the shortcomings of the earlier understanding.

In this manner, Albert Bandura and his formidable body of work continue to exert significant influence to the field of psychology to this day.