Social Cognitive Learning Model
This theory supposes that people self-regulate their environments and actions, and that new behaviors are learned and maintained by those interactions between the person and their environment.
Learning takes place through:
- Direct experience
- Indirect or vicarious experience by observing others or modeling
- Storing and processing of complex information in cognitive operations that allow one to anticipate consequences of actions, set goals in thought and weigh evidence from various sources in order to assess one’s own capabilities to learn.
Individual life experiences and environmental influences, (e.g. having fast food easily available), influence each other and must be accounted for together. According to the Cognitive Learning model, behavior is changed by altering near-environments (e.g., classroom, youth group, family activities) and by empowering the individual with skills to master those environments.
Behavior is more difficult to change because with the more life experiences one has the more those life experiences contribute to core beliefs. For example, take the teen who’s never enjoyed sports, who has always been picked last for school teams and who is bullied during PE. Over time, these negative life experiences can build into a core belief that physical activity is to be avoided at all costs.
The Social Learning (Cognitive) Model has four components:
- Behavior potential – the likelihood of engaging in a particular behavior given a specific situation. This component is the probability that an individual will demonstrate a particular behavior in a certain situation based upon their past experiences and behavior. This element explains how habits are some times formed.
- Expectancy – the probability that a certain behavior will lead to an outcome/result that will reinforce or continue that behavior. If there is a high expectancy that the behavior will result in a favorable outcome, and the person is confident of achieving that outcome the behavior will be continued and even strengthened (e.g., early weight-loss efforts were successful which leads to on-going weight-loss and weight maintenance efforts.)
- Reinforcement value – the desirability of the behavior’s outcomes or consequences. When the outcomes or consequences we want are considered positive (e.g., physical activity which is fun) then the behavior is likely to sustain itself. Alternatively, when the consequences of a behavior is not desired, then the behavior not likely to be continued.
- Psychological situation – the notion that different people interpret or perceive the same situation differently. This component leads to the “locus of control” concept.
Locus of Control is the belief that people have about what determines their life experiences.
- Some people have an “internal” locus of control which means they believe they have responsibility over their life decisions, actions and outcomes. Success or failure is due to their own efforts and control over outcomes.
- Those with an “external” locus of control primarily believe that the outcomes and results of their behaviors are controlled by others or are influenced by other factors. Elements of luck, fate and others “power” are prominent.
Those with high internal locus of control may be more ready to make positive health changes while external locus of control may hinder the readiness (and willingness) of trying new behaviors.
Social Action theory, which builds on the social cognitive model, provides a framework for multilevel approaches to health promotion. Social Action offers a rationale for health policy and interventions that change environments as interventions.