Core Features of Human Agency

Bandura (2001, 2004) discusses four core features of human agency: intentionality, forethought, self-reactiveness, and self-reflectiveness.

Intentionality refers to acts a person performs intentionally. An intention includes planning, but it also involves actions. "It is not simply an expectation or prediction of future actions but a proactive commitment to bringing them about" (p. 6). Intentionality does not mean that all of a person's plans will be brought to fruition. People continually change then plans as they become aware of the consequences of their actions.

People also possess forethought to set goals, to anticipate likely outcomes of their actions, and to select behaviors that will produce desired outcomes and avoid undesirable ones. Forethought enables people to break free from the constraints of their environment. If behavior were completely a function of the environment, then behavior would be more variable and less consistent because we would constantly be reacting to the great diversity of environmental stimuli. "If actions were determined solely by external rewards and punishments, people would behave like weather-vanes" (Bandura, 1986, p. 335). But people do not behave like weathervanes, "constantly shifting direction to conform to whatever influence happened to impinge upon them at the moment" (Bandura, 2001, p. 7).

People do more than plan and contemplate future behaviors. They are also capable of self-reactiveness hi the process of motivating and regulating their own actions. People not only make choices but they monitor then progress toward fulfilling those choices. (Bandura, 2001) recognizes that setthig goals is not sufficient to attaining desired consequences. Goals must be specific, be within a person's ability to achieve, and reflect potential accomplishments that are not too far in the future. (We discuss self-regulation more fully in the section titled Self-Regulation.)

Finally, people have self-reflectiveness. They are examiners of then own functioning; they can think about and evaluate then motivations, values, and the meanings of then life goals, and they can think about the adequacy of their own thinking. They can also evaluate the effect that other people's actions have on them. People's most crucial self-reflective mechanism is self-efficacy: that is, then beliefs that they are capable of performing actions that will produce a desired effect.

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