Social Cognitive Learning Theory’s Limitations, Strengths and Weaknesses

The biggest strength of behaviorism as it relates to social learning and social cognitive theory is that real world examples can be applied and can be quickly and easily administered. However, the social learning theory cannot account for all development behavior since thoughts and feelings are influenced by many internal and external factors as well as inherited and maturation factors.

 Bandura’s social learning theory has had important implications in education and yet, in spite of Bandura’s great discoveries, the new versions are still lacking an overall understanding of the complexity of human behavior, personalities and human differences as well as biological differences.  The theory does not answer a question such as “Why do humans respond differently to similar situations?, nor does it explain why rewarding someone for a behavior they are already doing may serve to reduce the behavior instead of increasing it.

Below is a list of the theory’s limitations, strengths, its weaknesses and neglected areas:

Behavior Change through Modeling and Guided Mastery

Through watching models and receiving guidance in performing the modeled behavior, changes in self-efficacy expectancies can occur. These changes in self-efficacy expectancies can lead to behavior change

Strengths of Social Cognitive Theory

1.  Accumulated an impressive research record

2.  Concerned with important human social behaviors

3.  An evolving theory that is open to change

4. Focused on important theoretical issues, e.g., role of reward in learning, the stability of


5. Reasonable view of people and concern with the social implications of the theory

Limitations of Social Cognitive Theory

1. Not a fully systematized, unified theory; loosely organized

2.  Controversial issues:

      a) Is reinforcement necessary for both learning and performance?

       b) Is self-efficacy just another outcome expectancy?

       c) Why are some self-efficacy expectancies stable and others susceptible to rapid change?

        d) If self-efficacy expectancies are situation specific how do they relate to broader personality?

       e) Why are some self-efficacy beliefs apparently unrelated to behavior, e.g., stop smoking?

       f) Relies on self-reports excessively

3. Neglected areas:

        a) Maturation and changes over the lifespan ignored

        b) Minimal attention to motivation, conflict, and emotion

4.  Findings are preliminary

     Are cognitive processes the basic concepts of personality?

     Are modeling and guided participation able to handle many  psychological problems?


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