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Psychology World Podcast: Episode 8- Social Cognitive Theory

Hello everyone, I hope that you had a great weekend!

Today's episode is on social psychology and Social Cognitive Theory. This is one of my favourite social psychology topics.

There are many reasons why I love this unit or have a great interest in this unit and one of the reasons is this amazing theory as it explains how we learn, and I just found it interesting to put a name to this obviously true theory.

So Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) or Social Cognitive Learning Theory as it was once called.

It’s exactly that. It’s the theory that we learn by observing other people and their consequences.

It’s as simple as that. Well, we could go into more depth about the theory but when its essences are in the paragraph above. What’s the point?

Especially, as this book is an introduction.

So, how can this theory be put into the real world?

The question is more how can’t it.

Because SCT can be applied to many different situations. For example speech as we observe others as babies speaking and then we try to recreate that behaviour as we have seen people perform it so we can learn from them how to speak.

Another situation is bullying we watch others bully us or other people, so we learn from them how to do it.

The final example is violence as we watch others perform violence on TV, in films or we see people in fights. From this watching, we see how to perform violence.

Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961)

The study was made up of 3-5-year-old children and their level of aggression was evaluated first, so a matched-pair design could be used to group children with similar levels of aggression together.

Then the children would watch a male or female model act aggressively or passively towards the Bobo doll or as a control group they would simply be put with the bobo alone. To see what they would do to the doll.

Each child would go into a room and after seeing all the toys they would be told that they weren’t allowed to play with them. Making them frustrated.

Results showed that the groups with the aggressive model shown the most aggression, then the control group and then the passive model group were the least violent. Plus, the male groups were the most violent.

Critically thinking:

The study was well controlled as children with similar levels of aggressive were put together.

However, this experiment has ethical concerns because by introducing and teaching the children violence. How negatively are we affecting their future?

Joy, Kimball and Zabrack (1986)

They studied three towns in Canada. A town called Notel in 1973 which didn’t have TV and again in 1975 when they had one TV channel.

Two other towns were observed as well but they already had a TV.

120 elementary school children were observed to do with their level of verbal and physical aggression on the playground. Peers’ and teacher’s ratings of the aggressions were taken as well.

Results showed that aggression dramatically increased in Notel from 1973 to 1975 whereas the other two towns didn’t increase significantly over the two years. The peer and teacher ratings supported this.

The researchers found that males were more aggressive than females.

They concluded that the most likely explanation was that the children got heighten arousal from the new television and this heighten arousal lead to an increase in aggression.

Critically thinking:

This study’s findings can be applied to general society as the findings were shown in three different locations, so we know that this is a general behavioural trend.

Saying that, as this wasn’t an international study these findings can’t be applied to other countries as we don’t know the extent to which their culture would affect the results.


SCT is the theory that we learn by observing other people.

Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961) found that children that observe aggression learn how to show aggression.

Joy, Kimball and Zabrack (1986) found that TV does lead to an increase in aggressive behaviour.

I hope that you enjoyed this post or episode.

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If you want to know about social psychology then please consider checking out my Social Psychology book.

Have a great week everyone!

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