Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura is a past president of the American Psychological Association (1973) and has been a professor at Stanford since 1953. Bandura was born in Alberta, Canada. He received his BA from the University of British Columbia in 1949 and his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Iowa in 1952. Following his graduation, Bandura began teaching at Stanford and continues there as a faculty member to this day.

Bandura was trained as a psychologist in the behavioral tradition, believing that only the observable is worth studying. However, as his career developed, he became interested in cognitions, including mental images and language. Resulting from his interests in both behavioral and cognitive study, many of his theories contain concepts from both paradigms.

One of Bandura’s most prominent theories, social learning, stems from his famous Bobo Doll Studies. In these studies, he showed children a video of a woman beating up an inflatable doll (a Bobo Doll). Following the video, they were allowed into a room that contained toys and a Bobo Doll. Bandura observed that the children would often model the woman’s behavior in the video and abuse the doll instead of playing with the other toys. Many variations of this study were conducted, all resulting in the same conclusion—that children model violent behavior.

According to Bandura’s social learning theory, there are four steps to modeling: (1) attention—the more attentive the observer, the greater the learning; (2) retention—being able to remember what is observed; (3) reproduction—recreating what has been observed; and (4) motivation—reason to model behavior. This notion of past reinforcement became important to Bandura; he believed that reasons for motivation include promised reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement, past punishment, promised punishment, and vicarious punishment. Bandura believed that punishment does not stimulate or negate behavior as well as reinforcement; therefore, reinforcement is more important in development.

From social learning came Bandura’s belief that violence in children is not inherent, but learned. Children model behavior from others in their lives (most prominently family members) and from the media. Since he believed that aggression is learned, Bandura claimed that potentially criminal behavior can be avoided if aggression is diagnosed early and other learning behaviors are used to rectify the aggressive behaviors.

Another major contribution of Bandura’s is the theory of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief  in  their  ability  to  accomplish  certain  goals. This belief stems from various sources and is domain specific, meaning that a person has efficacy beliefs regarding a specific task in a given situation and does not necessarily generalize those efficacy beliefs to other situations. Self-efficacy develops in people throughout their lives, and their past situations influence their current and future efficacy beliefs.


  1. Bandura, (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.
  2. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  3. Pajares, F.  (2004).  Albert  Bandura:  Biographical  sketch. Retrieved from