Albert Bandura has evolved his social cognitive theory by a careful balance of the two prmcipal components of theory building—innovative speculation and accurate observation. His theoretical speculations have seldom outdistanced his data but have been carefully advanced only one step hi front of observations. This scientifically sound procedure hicreases the likelihood that his hypotheses will yield positive results and that his theory will generate additional testable hypotheses.
The usefuhiess of Bandura's personality theory, like that of other theories, rests on its ability to generate research, to offer itself to falsification, and to organize knowledge. In addition, it must serve as a practical guide to action and be internally consistent and parsimonious. How does Bandura's theory rate on these six criteria?
Bandura's theory has generated several thousand research studies and thus receives a very high rating on its capacity to generate research. Bandura and his student colleagues have conducted much of the work, but other researchers, too, have been attracted to the theory. Bandura may be the most meticulous writer of all personality theorists. His carefully constructed formulations lend themselves to the formation of numerous testable hypotheses.
On the standard of falsifiabilitv, we rate Bandura's theory high. Self-efficacy theory suggests that "people's beliefs in then personal efficacy influence what courses of action they choose to pursue, how much effort they will invest hi activities, how long they will persevere in the face of obstacles and failure experiences, and then resiliency following setbacks" (Bandura, 1994, p. 65). This statement suggests several areas of possible research that could lead to falsification of self-efficacy theory.
On its ability to organize knowledge, Bandura's theory receives a high rating. Many findings from psychology research can be organized by social cognitive theory. The triadic reciprocal causation model is a comprehensive concept that offers a viable explanation for the acquisition of most observable behaviors. The inclusion of three variables in this paradigm gives Bandura s theory more flexibility to organize and explain behavior than does Skinner s radical behaviorism, which relies heavily on environmental variables.
How practical is Bandura s social cognitive theory? To the therapist, teacher, parent, or anyone interested in the acquisition and maintenance of new behaviors, self-efficacy theory provides useful and specific guidelines. In addition to presenting techniques for enhancing personal and collective efficacy and for efficient use of proxies, Bandura s theory suggests ways in which observational learning and modeling can be used to acquire behaviors.
Is the theory internally consistent? Because Bandura s social cognitive theory is not highly speculative, it has outstanding internal consistency. Bandura is not afraid to speculate, but he never ventures far beyond the empirical data available to him. The result is a carefully couched rigorously written, and internally consistent theory.
The final criterion of a useful theory is parsimony. Again, Bandura s theory meets high standards. The theory is simple, straightforward and unencumbered by hypothetical or fanciful explanations.
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