The weaknesses of social cognitive theory

Updated April 17, 2017

Social cognitive theory is a set of general principles developed by psychologist Albert Bandura. Bandura uses the concept of human agency to define humans as active participants with the capability of changing their environment, thoughts and behaviour. Self-efficacy is an acquired belief by humans that they can control their own behaviour and outcomes under varying circumstances. The concept of reciprocal determinism explains that behaviour, environment and cognition are all affected by one another. The theory was created with intent to explain social processes and human behaviour, but it contains inherent weaknesses.

Structure Does Not Connect Concepts Clearly

The social cognitive theory fails to connect its concepts under one unified principle. Bandura tries to cover broad aspects of human behaviour, which causes a disorganisation of concepts. The observational learning concept states that humans learn vicariously through observation with or without direct reinforcement. Humans may or may not change their behaviour based on what has been observationally learnt. The concepts Bandura uses are used to explain elements of social behaviour amongst human beings. Not all of the concepts are clearly connected with one another.

Unconscious Mind Not Considered

Bandura's conceptual use of human agency indicates a self-control of mind, with no consideration for the subconscious. Bandura's belief is that thoughts can be controlled through the use of self-efficacy. If the thoughts are controllable, humans must be consciously aware of all thought processes. Under the theory, the unconscious mind doesn't exist, because it has no bearing on human desire or behaviour.

Emotion Not Factored

Human agency fails to consider emotional responses such as jealousy or anger. The theory states that human behaviour is explained by internal and external factors. Under the model, emotion would have to be a controlled individual reaction to external stimuli.

Lack of Attention to Biological and Hormonal Factors

Bandura fails to connect biological processes and hormonal responses to explain human behaviour. According to the theory, differences relating to biology and hormonal responses have no effect on human agency or self-efficacy.

Failure to Recognize Mental Disorders

Mental disorders such as schizophrenia are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Hallucinations, paranoia and other psychological reactions to chemical imbalance are not considered to be controlled by the person inflicted with the disorder. The theory does not have an explanation for mental disorders or an indication that anybody lacks the ability to control thoughts and behaviours.

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About the Author

Based in western Michigan, Steve Middendorp has been a writer for more than 10 years. He has contributed to several regional publications such as "Revue Magazine" and "GR Now." Middendorp holds a Bachelor of Science in communications and psychology from Grand Valley State University.