Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925, in Mundare, a small hamlet of some 400 inhabitants, largely immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, in northern Alberta, Canada, about 50 miles east of Edmonton. He was the youngest child and only boy among six children in a family of Eastern European descent. His parents had each emigrated to Canada when they were adolescents—his father from Krakow, Poland, and his mother from the Ukraine. Bandura's father worked laying track for the trans-Canada railroad, and his mother worked in the town's general store. After they garnered sufficient savings, they bought a homestead and engaged the ardous task of converting, practically with their own hands, heavily wooded land strewn boulders into a tillable farm. They had no formal education but placed a high value on educational attainment. For example, his father taught himself to read three languages, Polish, Russian, and German, and he also served as a member of the school board in the district where they lived.
Bandura wrote about this difficult, but productive, time in his family's struggle: "In addition to creating a workable farm, my father supervised the layout and construction of the road system in this newly opened homestead district. The beginning of this pioneer life was a tough struggle. In the first year, a layer of the thatched roof on the house my father built had to be dismantled and fed to the cattle because of a severe drought." In 1918, the family suffered a tragic loss when the flu pandemic claimed a young daughter. Bandura's mother walked from home to home helping to nurse back to health those who were fortunate to survive. Not long after, a son was killed in a hunting mishap with one of his friends. Recalls Bandura, "the Great Depression took a toll on my father's fun-loving spirit when he lost a section of land he had cultivated so laboriously. It pained him to see somebody else farming it." But through laborious effort, Bandura's father added further sections to the farm, and before long he purchased a model-T Ford, an odd cultural novelty at the time. Moreover, Bandura's parents knew how to celebrate life, and they also worked hard to create a festive family atmosphere. "My mother was a superb cook, and my father played a sprightly violin," recalls Bandura.
Young Bandura's elementary and high school years were spent at the one and only school in town, which being woefully short of teachers and resources left learning largely to the students' own initiative. For example, the entire curriculum of his high school mathematics class comprised a single textbook, which one beleaguered teacher endeavored to read ahead of her small but bright class of students. As a prank, the students conspired and stole the trigonometry book, which reduced the teacher to desperate pleading and homework concessions so that the class could resume. Two teachers handled the entire high school curriculum. "The students had to take charge of their own education," Bandura recalls. "Very often we developed a better grasp of the subjects than the overworked teachers." Although far off the path to academe, the school spawned an atypical class of graduates, virtually all of whom went on to attend universities throughout the world. For Bandura, the paucity of educational resources turned out to be an enabling factor that served him well rather than an insurmountable handicapping one. "The content of most textbooks is perishable," he observed, "but the tools of self-directedness serve one well over time."
During summer vacations while in high school, Bandura's parents encouraged him to seek experiences beyond the confines of their small hamlet. One summer he worked in a furniture manufacturing plant in Edmonton, and the carpentry skills he acquired subsequently helped to support him through college, where he engaged in part-time carpentry work in a woodwork plant during the afternoons. The summer after young Bandura completed high school, he worked in the far North, at Whitehorse in the Yukon, filling holes to protect the Alaska Highway against its continual sinking into the fragile muskeg. "I remember flying into Whitehorse in a military plane," recalled the Professor, "then taking a bus to the base camp. As I got off the bus at 2 a.m., they were loading someone into the ambulance. I asked if someone was injured. The denizens of the camp replied, 'Hell no, that's our cook. He drank all the lemon extract for the alcohol, so we have to take him in to get his stomach pumped out.'" At Whitehorse he found himself in the midst of a curious collection of characters, most of whom had fled creditors, alimony, the draft board, or probation officers. "This wasn't Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," quipped Bandura. The main event of the month was when their illicit still, containing a huge mixture of potatoes and sugar, was ready with its batch of raw vodka. On one occasion, grizzly bears beat the men to it. There was human misery for a month, but some very frisky bears. Bandura quickly developed a keen appreciation for the psychopathology of everyday life, which seemed to blossom in the austere tundra.
After high school graduation, and in search of a benign and intellectually spirited climate, Bandura went westward to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Explained Bandura, "My parents encouraged me to expand my experiences ... they essentially presented me with two options: I could either remain in Mundare, till the farmland, play pool and drink myself to oblivion in the beer parlor, or I might try to get a higher education. The latter option seemed more appealing to me." Bandura's choice of psychology as a career came about by chance. Because he worked in the woodwork plant during the afternoons to make ends meet, he was forced to take a heavy course load during the mornings. He commuted each morning to the university in a carpool of engineering and pre-med students who started each day very early. Because his own classes did not begin quite so early ("I didn't think life existed that early!"), Bandura would try to find something to fill the time until his classes started. "One morning, I was wasting time in the library. Someone had forgotten to return a course catalog and I thumbed through it attempting to find a filler course to occupy the early time slot. I noticed a course in psychology that would serve as excellent filler. It sparked my interest and I found my career." Although intending to major in one of the biological sciences, Bandura took the psychology class, became enthralled, and decided to concentrate on it. Within three years (in 1949), he graduated with the Bolocan Award in psychology. The impact of his accidental entrance into the world of psychology would influence his theorizing later. In his 1982 article "The Psychology of Chance Encounters and Life Paths," he discussed how personal initiative often places people into circumstances where fortuitous events can shape the courses lives take. Rather than treating fortuity as uncontrollability, Bandura focused on how to make chance work for one through self-development to exploit fortuitous opportunities.
When it came time to apply for graduate study, Bandura went to his academic advisor and asked, "Where are the stone tablets of psychology?" The advisor replied without hesitation, "University of Iowa, of course." So Bandura decided to pursue graduate study at the University of Iowa. As he recalls, "this was the heyday of theoretical and experimental analyses of learning, which was the phenomenon of central interest, with the Hullian approach being the dominant theory at the time. Clark Hull had passed on his theoretical baton to his illustrious protégé, Kenneth Spence, who presided masterfully over the psychology department at Iowa. So I set my sight on the theoretical epicenter for graduate study. As I was about to leave, my advisor explained that previous applicants had found the doctoral program at Iowa to be a taxing experience. His portrayal made it clear that resilience and a tough hide would be handy survival resources." The Department of Psychology at Iowa was a lively place at the time, providing admirable examples of superb scholars and dedicated researchers (including Kurt Lewin). Fundamental problems in learning were being investigated with fervor, competing theories were being put to stringent tests, and the annual excursions to meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association resembled missionary ventures. It was also the scene of occasional clever pranks designed to raise Spence's blood pressure, such as when the graduate students pinned a rat that had expired on the Departmental bulletin board with an explanatory note, "This rat ran according to Tolman's theory." When Spence spied the rodent, he snatched it away with an explosive expletive.
Because of a close allegiance between Spence and Clark Hull at Yale University, students and faculty at Iowa followed theory and research at Yale closely. In the 1930s, social learning theory was born at the Yale Institute of Human Relations under the direction of Mark May with the intellectual leadership of Hull. They sought to provide learning explanations for key aspects of personality and social development discussed by Freud, such as dependency, aggression, identification, conscience formation, and defense mechanisms. Among the key collaborators with Hull at the institute were John Dollard, Neal Miller, and Robert Sears, who sought to reconcile Freudian and Hullian perspectives during their subsequent careers. For example, to study the cause of children's identification with adults, Miller and Dollard conducted a series of experimental studies of social modeling, which they described as a form of instrumental conditioning in a book entitled Social Learning and Imitation (1941). Despite Spence's missionary zeal at Iowa, Bandura was not attracted to Hullian theory because of its emphasis on tedious trial-and-error learning. He felt that cultures transmitted social mores and complex competencies primarily through vicarious experience and that Miller and Dollard's studies of modeling and imitation revealed an alternative way that humans acquired competences and knowledge.
Much to his surprise, Bandura found the Department of Psychology a challenging but highly supportive and hospitable department. He recalls that, "as a native Canadian, I did not qualify for fellowship stipends. Art Benton always managed to find ways to keep me adequately supplied with the coin of the realm. In recalling this fluid system of financial aid, I was reminded of a major tourist attraction in the San Jose area, the Winchester Mystery House, which was built by the heir of the rifleman. Mrs. Winchester was of the belief that she would continue to live as long as she added new constructions to her ever--expanding mansion. As Art Benton created ongoing makeshift carpentry jobs for me, his home on South Court began to take on a Winchester look. I navigated through the Iowa graduate program with those temperamental Marchand calculators in one hand and a serviceable hammer in the other. When Jud Brown departed for summer consultancies to the Lackland Airforce program, I was keeper of his house and hound. His home got needless coats of paint as part of an unarticulated financial aid program. At the end of my first year of graduate study it was evident that my undergraduate advisor needed some corrective feedback regarding the ethos at Iowa. I explained to him that my initial experiences in graduate study at Iowa reminded me of Mark Twain when he said of Wagner's music, 'It's not as bad as it sounds.'"
Amid his academic demands and professional growth, the young graduate student managed a bit of leisure on the golf links, and it was there that a pivotal event in his life took place. Arriving late to the golf course one Sunday, Bandura and a friend were bumped to a later starting time. There were two women ahead of them. The women were slowing down; the men were speeding up. Soon, Bandura and one of the attractive young women encountered each other in a sand trap. He described it this way: "Seeking relief from an uninspiring reading assignment, a graduate student departs for the golf links with his friend. They happen to find themselves playing behind a twosome of attractive women golfers. Before long the two twosomes become one foursome and, in the course of events, one of the partners eventually becomes the wife of the graduate golfer." Bandura was later to write, "I met my wife in a sand trap!" The attractive young woman destined to become Bandura's lifelong partner was Virginia Varns, who was on the teaching staff of the College of Nursing.
Bandura received his M.A. degree in 1951 and his Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Iowa in 1952 under the direction of Arthur Benton (but his genealogy goes back to William James!!). He went on to a postdoctoral internship at the Wichita Guidance Center. He was attracted to this program for two reasons. First, the Center was directed by a psychologist, Joseph Brewer, a fact that, Bandura reasoned, "would damper excessive medicalization of common problems of living. This was a time when the field of clinical psychology was heavily intrapsychically oriented under the reign of psychoanalytic theory. The Center was embedded in a diverse network of community services." An added allure was that the societal connectedness of the Center provided a broader perspective on how people live their lives. Durig this time, "Ginny" was supervisor of the Obstetrics Hospital nearby. Virginia and Albert married in 1952 and became parents to two daughters, Mary, who was born in 1954, and Carol, born in 1958.
In 1953, Bandura joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he has remained to pursue his career. Bandura found Stanford much to his liking—distinguished colleagues, gifted students, considerable freedom to go wherever one's curiosity might lead, and a university ethos that approached scholarship not as a matter of publish or perish but with amazement that the quest for knowledge could require coercion. This is how Bandura recalls the transition to Stanford: "I joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1953, where I recently completed a half century of academic service and am still saddled up for active duty into the second half. As I reflect on this transforming journey it feels like a surreal Odyssey from a remote hamlet in Northern Alberta to the balmy palms of Stanford in a brief six years. As a visiting faculty member at Stanford in 1906, William James aptly described this wonderous place as near "utopian," where, 'there couldn't be imagined a better environment for an intellectual man to teach and work' with the added benefit of 'perfection of weather.' This place got even better with time. I was blessed with illustrious colleagues, gifted students, considerable freedom to go wherever one's curiosity might lead, and a university ethos that approaches scholarship, not as a matter of publish or perish, but with puzzlement that the pursuit of knowledge should require coercion. My first faculty meeting with the renowned assemblage of former APA presidents – Bob Sears, Jack Hilgard, Quinn McNemar, Calvin Stone, and Paul Farnsworth – was a rather awesome experience. I had been weaned on their textbooks so they were larger than life."
Bandura's initial appointment at Stanford was for one year as an acting instructor. Midway through the first academic term, Bandura approached the renowned psychologist Robert Sears, then Chair of the Department, and explained that he had been offered and was considering a position in Santa Rosa, near the bucolic wine region. This was a position that combined clinical work in a community service center with part-time teaching at the Santa Rosa Junior College. In a forceful response, Sears explained that Bandura would be receiving a three-year assistant professorship and that, in the interim, Bandura would be placed under self-protective "house arrest" if neccesary to forestall an irrational decision.
When Bandura arrived on campus, Sears was exploring the familial antecedents of social behavior and identificatory learning, also focusing on nonaggressive reactions to frustration. Influenced by Sears' work, Bandura began field studies of social learning and aggression in collaboration with Richard Walters, his first doctoral student. They were fascinated with the unconventional challenge of explaining antisocial aggression in boys who came from intact homes in advantaged residential areas rather than simply demonstrating that multiple adverse conditions tend to spawn behavioral problems. This research, which underscored the paramount role of modeling in human behavior, led to a program of laboratory research into the determinants and mechanisms of observational learning.
Bandura and Walters found that hyper-aggressive adolescents often had parents who modeled hostile attitudes. Although the parents would not tolerate aggression in the home, they demanded that their sons be tough and settle disputes with peers physically if necessary, and they sided with their sons against the school. They displayed aggression toward the school system and toward other youngsters whom they believed were giving their sons a difficult time. The youngsters modeled the aggressive hostile attitudes of their parents. For these aggressive adolescents, the vicarious influence of seeing a model meting out punishment outweighed the suppressive effect of receiving punishment directly for aggressive acts. These findings conflicted with the Freudian-Hullian assumption that direct parental punishment would internally inhibit children's expression of aggressive drives, and they led to Bandura's first book, Adolescent Aggression (1959) and to a subsequent book several years later, Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis (1973).
Having gained a better sense of how people learn by observation, Bandura extended this work to abstract modeling of rule-governed behavior and to disinhibition through vicarious experience. Results from this work led Bandura to conduct a program of research with Dorrie and Sheila Ross on social modeling involving the now famous inflated plastic Bobo doll. At that time, it was widely believed in accordance with the Freudian theory of catharsis that modeled violence would drain observers' aggressive drives and reduce such behavior. The children in these studies were exposed to social models who demonstrated either novel violent or nonviolent behaviors toward these rebounding dolls. Children who viewed violent models subsequently displayed the novel forms of aggression toward the Bobo doll whereas control children rarely, if ever, did so. These results revealed the occurrence of observational learning in the absence of reinforcement to the observers. Bandura and his colleagues also demonstrated that children could learn new patterns of behavior vicariously without actually performing them or receiving rewards. This line of theorizing was discordant with the views in vogue at the time that learning is a consequence of direct reinforcement. The results conflicted with Miller and Dollard's conditioning account of modeling and imitation, and led Bandura to distinguish between the cognitive effects of modeling on acquisition and the motivational effects of rewards on imitative performance. This research was summarized in a second book published in 1963 entitled Social Learning and Personality Development and led Bandura and Walters to conclude that modeling was a powerful process that could account for diverse forms of learning. They sought to free explanations of social learning from theoretical dependence on Freudian assumptions about the role of identification and catharsis and from Hullian and Skinnerian assumptions about the need for direct reinforcement.
In all, Bandura's initial program of research at Stanford centered on the prominent role of social modeling in human motivation, thought, and action. Until that time, psychologists had focused almost exclusively on learning through the consequences of one's actions. Bandura showed that the tedious and hazardous process of trial and error learning can be shortcut through social modeling of knowledge and competencies exhibited by the rich variety of models. He rightfully pointed out that modeling was not simply response mimicry. By extracting the rules underlying the modeled styles of behavior, people generated new behavior patterns in a similar style but go beyond what they have seen or heard. He further showed that, in addition to cultivating new competencies, modeling influences alter motivation by instilling behavioral outcome expectations, and create emotional proclivities and value systems through the emotional expressions of others toward given persons, places or things. Bandura also notes that a lot of modeling goes on in creativity. By novel synthesis of existing innovations or adding new elements to them something new is created. Modeling influences can promote creativeness by exemplifying diversity for novel syntheses and fresh perspectives that weaken conventional mind sets.
During the 1960s, Bandura also launched a program of research on children's development of self-regulatory capabilities. This research foreshadowed his development of an agentic perspective in which people are viewed as self-regulatory and self-reflective organisms, not just reactive ones to environmental influences. Bandura explored with his student Carol Kupers the acquisition of performance standards for self-reward. They used a bowling game wherein children could reward themselves with candy for whatever performance level they felt merited the reward. Children watched an adult or peer model bowl and reward himself according to either a high or a low performance standard. When the children had an opportunity to bowl, those who witnessed a model set a high standard of self-reward adopted a more stringent performance criterion for self-reward than observers who watched a model set a lax standard. In a related study, children who were given high performance standards achieved more due to self-rewards than to external rewards. Bandura and a colleague at Stanford, Walter Mischel, found that children who observed a model forego small immediate rewards in favor of larger long-term rewards increased their preference for delayed rewards. These pioneering studies of the social origins of children's self-motivation and self-regulation provided a new and experimentally testable alternative to personality trait theories. The role of a person's situational context would become a major focus of Mischel's subsequent research on a wide variety of personal attributes, such as conscientiousness and friendliness, and would become a defining property of Bandura's view of self-referential thought.
The revolutionary advances in the technology of telecommunications have made symbolic modeling a key vehicle in the social diffusion of ideas, values, and styles of behavior worldwide. Recognizing the growing power of the symbolic environment in people's lives, Bandura extended his theorizing and research to the mechanisms through which symbolic modes of modeling produce their widespread social effects.
In 1964, Bandura became a full professor at Stanford and was elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association. During the 1969/70 academic year he spent a year as Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 1974 Stanford awarded him an endowed chair and he became David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. During 1976/77, he served as chairman of the Department of Psychology (1976/77). In 1977, Bandura published the ambitious Social Learning Theory, a book that dramatically altered the direction psychology was to take in the 1980s. The extraordinary growth of interest in social learning and psychological modeling owes much to Bandura's theoretical analyses of this important phenomenon. Of course, he was just getting warmed up. Bandura found Stanford to be a remarkable place for collaborative research—"I have been able to work with such leading researchers as Jack Barchas and Barr Taylor in psychiatry, Robert DeBusk in cardiology, and Halsted Holman in internal medicine. We develop projects in which we can combine the expertise of several laboratories."
Because his interests range widely, Bandura is in the habit of pursuing several lines of research concurrently. His comprehensive analysis of self-regulatory mechanisms sheds new light on how people make causal contributions to their own motivation and actions. This seminal work proved of substantial value in penetrating some of the fundamental problems of human agency. In the course of investigating the processes by which participant modeling ameliorates phobic disorders, he became impressed with evidence indicating that changes in behavior and fear arousal are mediated largely through self-percepts of efficacy. Following this lead, Bandura embarked on another major program of research examining the influential role of self-referent thought in psychological functioning. Although he continued to explore theoretical problems relating to observational learning, self-regulation, aggression, and psychotherapeutic change, in the late 1970s and early 1980s a major share of his attention was devoted to elucidating how self-referent thought mediates action and affective arousal.
By the mid-1980s Bandura had developed a social cognitive theory of human functioning. This theory accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, self-regulatory and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change. Social cognitive theory is rooted in an agentic perspective. In this view, people are self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating, not just reactive organisms shaped and shepherded by environmental forces or driven by concealed inner impulses. Human functioning is the product of a dynamic interplay of personal, behavioral, and environmental influences. In this model of triadic reciprocal causation, people are producers as well as products of their environment. His book, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, provides the conceptual framework and analyzes the large body of knowledge bearing on this theory.
Bandura's decision to re-label his theoretical approach from social learning to social cognitive was due to his growing belief that the breadth of his theorizing and research had expanded beyond the scope of the social learning label. Moreover, the label had become increasingly misleading because it applied to several theories founded on dissimilar tenets, such as Miller and Dollard's drive theory, Rotter's expectancy theory, Gewirtz's operant theory, and Patterson's functionalist theory. In this book, Bandura presented a social cognitive vision of the origins of human thought and action and the influential role of self-referential processes to motivation, affect, and action. He depicted people as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflective, and self-regulative in thought and action rather than as merely reactive to social environmental or inner cognitive-affective forces. "Moreover," wrote Bandura, "the theory under discussion had always been much broader than the initial descriptive label. It not only addressed how people acquire cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral competences, but also how they motivate and regulate their behavior and create social systems that organize and structure their lives. In the more fitting appellation as social cognitive theory, the social portion of the title acknowledges the social origins of much human thought and action; the cognitive portion recognizes the influential contribution of cognitive processes to human motivation, affect, and action.
A major focus of Bandura's theorizing addressed the extraordinary symbolizing capacity of humans. By drawing on their symbolic capabilities, people can comprehend their environment, construct guides for action, solve problems cognitively, support forethoughtful courses of action, gain new knowledge by reflective thought, and communicate with others at any distance in time and space. By symbolizing their experiences, people give structure, meaning, and continuity to their lives.
A further distinctive feature of social cognitive theory that Bandura singles out for special attention is the capacity for self-directedness and forethought. People plan courses of action, anticipate their likely consequences, and set goals and challenges for themselves to motivate, guide and regulate their activities. After adopting personal standards, people regulate their own motivation and behavior by the positive and negative consequences they produce for themselves. They do things that give them satisfaction and a sense of self-worth, and refrain from actions that evoke self-devaluative reactions. The human capacity for self-management is an aspect of the theory that makes it particularly apt to the changing times. The accelerated pace of informational, social and technological changes has placed a premium on people's capabilities to exert a strong hand in their own self-renewal and functioning through the life course.
The capability for self-reflection concerning one's functioning and personal efficacy to produce effects is another human attribute that is featured prominently in social cognitive theory. Bandura regards the self-efficacy belief system as the foundation of human motivation, well-being and personal accomplishments. Unless people believe that they can bring about desired outcomes by their actions they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties. A wealth of empirical evidence documents that beliefs of personal efficacy touch virtually every aspect of people's lives-whether they think productively, self-debilitatingly, pessimistically or optimistically; how well they motivate themselves and persevere in the face of adversities; their vulnerability to stress and depression, and the life choices they make.
Human lives are not lived in isolation. Bandura, therefore, expanded the conception of human agency to include collective agency. People work together on shared beliefs about their capabilities and common aspirations to better their lives. This conceptual extension makes the theory applicable to human adaptation and change in collectivistically-oriented societies as well as individualistically-oriented ones. In his 1997 book, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, Bandura sets forth at length the basic tenets of his theory of self-efficacy and its fruitful applications to the fields of life-course development, education, health, psychopathology, athletics, business, and international affairs.
Viewed from the social cognitive perspective, the major distinguishing mark of humans is their endowed plasticity and learnability. Their specialized neurophysiological structures and systems provide a vast potentiality that can be fashioned by direct and vicarious experience into diverse forms within biological constraints. Bandura cites the remarkable cultural diversity of behavior patterns and the rapid pace of social change as testimony that biology permits a wide range of possibilities.
With social cognitive theory, Bandura has created one of the few "grand theories" that continues to thrive at the beginning of the Twenty-first Century. He has defied the general trend in psychology and education toward mini-models by focusing on processes that are influential in diverse areas of human functioning, be they education, sports, health, organizational settings, medicine, mental health, and social political spheres. The broad scope of Bandura's theory stems from his diverse scientific interests, and his theory's ready applicability. Social modeling, self-enabling beliefs, and self-regulation are pervasive across contexts and domains of human functioning.
One of Bandura's research projects studied how people's perceptions of their ability to control what they perceive as threats to themselves affect the release of neurotransmitters and stress-related hormones into the bloodstream. The research aimed at building resilience to phobic threats. Bandura discovered that powerful guided mastery treatment was eliminating snake phobias of long-standing within a few hours in all of the study's participants. These were phobias that had seriously impaired people's occupational, social, and recreational lives, and were the cause of distressing ruminations and recurrent nightmares. Overcoming, in just a few hours, a phobic dread that had tormented them for decades was a transforming and liberating experience. In follow-up assessments, the individuals expressed gratitude for being rid of their phobia, but explained that the treatment had a more profound psychological impact - it transformed their belief in their efficacy to exercise better control over their lives. They were putting themselves to the test in activities they formerly avoided and enjoying successes much to their surprise. Thus, the major finding of these investigations was that people can regulate their level of physiological activation through their belief in self-efficacy, which is to say their beliefs in their own capabilities. This resulted in the addition of the self-efficacy belief system to the agentic features of social cognitive theory.
As a result of these findings, Bandura redirected his research efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the belief system. To guide this new mission he developed a conceptual framework that specified the nature, structure, and function of efficacy beliefs, the means by which they can be developed, their diverse effects, the cognitive, motivational, affective and choice processes through which they produce their effects, and how this agentic knowledge can be used for personal and social betterment. Diverse programs of research were conducted that were essential to understanding these various aspects of self-efficacy theory. This body of knowledge helped to clarify how people's beliefs in their efficacy enable them to exercise influence over the quality of their functioning and to organize, create, and manage the life circumstances that affect what they become and the courses their lives take. By the year 2006, more than 4,000 articles included the concept of self-efficacy. In a typical Internet search, the term generated over two million Web pages. Self-efficacy has been the focus of research in areas asdiverse as business, athletics, medicine and health, media studies, social and political change, moral development, psychology, psychiatry, psycho-pathology, and international affairs. It has been especially prominent ineducational research, where scholars have reported that, regardless of previous achievement or ability, self-efficacious students work harder, persist longer, persevere in the face of adversity, have greater optimism and lower anxiety, and achieve more.
Because of strong and growing international interest in the construct of self-efficacy and in social cognitive theory, Bandura was invited to organize a conference for researchers under the auspices of the Jacob Foundation on the topic of young people's beliefs in their personal efficacy to manage the demands of rapidly changing societies. The conference was held in the beautiful Marbach Castle at the headwaters of the Rhine River in Germany in November of 1993. In this idyllic setting, the participants shared research findings, exchanged ideas, and identified topics in need of further research. They forged new transcontinental relationships during the day and were wined and dined in the evening. In addition to Bandura's sumptuous culinary choices, his wisdom, wit, and humanity made the conference truly memorable. The papers presented at the conference were subsequently published in a 1995 volume that Bandura edited entitled Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies.
Bandura's current research falls into four main areas. The first, continuing his earliest efforts, is concerned with the power of psychological modeling in shaping human thought, emotion, and action. "Most of the images of reality on which we base our actions are really based on vicarious experience," he argues, "This has increased with the tremendous technological advances in communications. We have a vast new world of images brought into our sitting-rooms electronically. Most theories of psychology were formed before these revolutionary technological advances, which have markedly increased the speed and score of human influence. Our theories of psychology should adapt to the new realities. I have been conducting programs of research into the new influences, to gauge how people are swayed by the symbolic environment as transmitted by the media."
His second line of research is concerned with the mechanisms of human agency: how people exercise influence over their own motivation and behavior. The third line, on which he is most active presently, is concerned with people's perceptions of their efficacy to exercise influence over the events that affect their lives, and how this affects their psychological functioning. "We find that people's beliefs about their efficacy affect the sorts of choices they make in very significant ways. In particular, it affects their levels of motivation and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Most success requires persistent effort, so low self-efficacy becomes a self-limiting process. In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, strung together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life." Bandura's fourth line of research is to learn how stress reactions and depressions are caused. Recently, Bandura has been working on a conceptual model that investigates at what levels of internal control people can disengage their morality from destructive acts on their part. "Moral justification is a powerful disengagement mechanism," he contends, "Destructive conduct is made personally and socially acceptable by portraying it in the service of moral ends. This is why most appeals against violent means usually fall on deaf ears.
Bandura's contributions to psychology have been recognized in the many honors and awards he has received. He was elected to the presidencies of the American Psychological Association (1974) and of the Western Psychological Association (1981), and he was appointed Honorary President of the Canadian Psychological Association. During Bandura's term as APA President, American psychologists were threatened by cuts in training grants by the Nixon administration, by cuts in reimbursements for psychological treatment for veterans, and by adverse publicity regarding the dangers of behavior modification. To combat these public policy problems, Bandura presided over the founding of the Association for the Advancement of Psychology (AAP) as an advocacy group for promoting the influence of psychology in public policy initiatives and congressional legislation. This advocacy group was viewed as very influential, and it became a model for other professional groups. The powerful senator from the state of Washington, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, was so impressed with the work of the Association that he asked the APA to assist his senate committee and staff on legislation having important social implications. It was in that year that Bandura was awarded the David Starr Jordan endowed chair of Social Sciences in Psychology at Stanford University.
Some of the awards he has received include the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award of the American Psychological Association, The Distinguished Scientist Award from Division 12 of the APA; the William James Award of the American Psychological Society for outstanding achievements in psychological science; the Distinguished Contribution Award from the International Society for Research in Aggression; a Guggenheim Fellowship; the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the California Psychological Association; and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the recipient of twelve honorary degrees from universities that include the University of British Columbia, Alfred University, the University of Rome, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Salamanca in Spain [see realvideo of the ceremony], Indiana University, the University of New Brunswick, Penn State University, Leiden University, and Freie Universitat Berlin, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and from Universitat Jaume I in Spain. . In 2003 and 2004, Bandura received his 15th and 16th honorary degrees from the University of Athens and the University of Catania.
In August of 1999, Bandura received the Thorndike Award for Distinguished Contributions of Psychology to Education from the American Psychological Association. In 2001, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. More honorary degrees and awards are on the way, however. In April of 2004, he received an honorary degree from the University of Athens. In October, he received one from the University of Catama. In May 2004 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Psychological Association as well as the coveted James McKeen Cattell Award from the American Psychological Society (he has promised to send us photographs of these events, so stay tuned . In August of 2004, Professor Bandura received the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association during the APA Conference in Hawaii.
And in 2005 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa [see and hear his acceptance speech]. He also delivered an invited address in Berlin at a conference held in honor of Paul Baltes, on the occasion of Dr. Baltes' retirement as Director of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.
The talk centered on selective moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. In July 2006, the Professor was honored by the Self Centre at their meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the Career Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions in Self-Concept Research.
In 2006 he also received two other important awards, the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Advancement of Health Promotion through Health Promotion Research from the American Academy of Health Behavior and the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Psychological Science from the American Psychological Foundation. In 2007 he received the Everett M. Rogers Award in Entertainment-Education. The annual award honors exceptional creativity in the practice of entertainment-education and excellence in research on the use of entertainment to deliver pro-social messages aimed at improving the quality of life of audiences in the United States and abroad [see pdf of the colloquium]. In 2008, the Professor was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his contributions to psychology.
When asked, "What do you consider to be your crowning achievement, and what are you most proud of in your professional life?" the Professor replied, "The crowning achievement is what you do next. That is the challenge that assures continual self-renewal. To hang around a place for over half a century requires a high capacity for self-renewal."
Bandura has served psychology in a variety of capacities, and his sense of concern with the uses to which its knowledge is put swells his extracurricular activities. He has often been found on the Washington commute to various advisory boards, research panels, federal agencies, and congressional committees, as well as committees and commissions of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. Moreover, he has served on the editorial boards of some 20 journals, often for extended tours of duty. To date he has authored seven books and edited two others, and these have been translated in numerous languages, including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Polish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. He feels deeply indebted to his students—most of whom have coauthored with him—for their invaluable contributions to his research efforts.
The Bandura family hold the view that securing happiness is more than significant analyses of variance. He does not leave his own search to chance. They are fond of traveling and of hiking in the majestic Sierras and the coastal ridges and headlands of California. "To place petty concerns into their cosmic perspective, " says the professor, "nothing beats a few days communing with the muses on top of a mountain" (he favors Vogelsang Pass in the high Sierras). Each fall the Bandura family turns for pleasure to the San Francisco Opera. Volumes of guides to Bay Area restaurants grace his bookshelves alongside his professional books. He rarely passes up an opportunity to sample the noble grape in the bucolic vineyards of the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
In June 1993, on the occasion of his 65th birthday, Bandura's colleagues and former students surprised him by gathering in California's verdant Napa Valley for a two-day Bandurafest. Months of secretive planning behind his back had eluded his typically observant eye. "They lured me there with a cover story," wrote Bandura, "although it did not require much luring. The mere mention of Napa Valley and I was halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge." That so many people attended the gathering may seem remarkable because no papers were presented and no Festschrift publication was planned. Instead, the two days were spent in lively informal discussions, a delightful picnic in the vineyards amidst the noble grapes, and a joyous celebratory dinner.The primary reason that people came from near and far was to honor their esteemed mentor, colleague, and friend. He was affectionately described as the "jovial genius" by one of his former students for his wisdom, humility, and wonderful sense of humor. In this intimate gathering, joined by his wife Ginny and his daughters Mary, today a clinical psychologist, and Carol, the director of an adolescent clinic for children of migrant workers and the neglected poor, Bandura expressed his gratitude to everyone present and to others who could not attend for enriching his life. In a moving gesture of affection and appreciation, they even regaled him with a special song composed in his honor. It goes without saying, of course, that no joy can surpass that of playing with his grandchildren (identical twins!) Andy and Tim.
At 82 years young, Professor Bandura continues to research and teach at Stanford University, and he still travels a world eager to convey on him numerous measures of recognition and respect for his accomplishments. "As I reflect on my journey to this octogenarian milepost," he wrote, "I am reminded of the saying that it is not the miles traveled but the amount of tread remaining that is important. When I last checked, I still have too much tread left to gear down or to conclude this engaging Odyssey." Indeed.
Professor Bandura in December 1993 with his twin grandchildren
Timmy in red and Andy in blue (or is it Timmy in blue and . . . ).
Oh, yes . . . they're making and chasing soap bubbles .
The Professor and the grandkids in 1996.
Beyond my own breathtaking prose, material for this biographical sketch has been directly taken or paraphrased from Professor Bandura's own professional biography (In M. G. Lindzey & W. M. Runyan (Eds.) A history of psychology in autobiography (Vol. IX). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association); from Prof. Bandura's articles; from personal communications with Prof. Bandura; from Donald Stokes' article "Chance Can Play Key Role in Life, Psychologist Says," published in the Stanford Campus Report; from Psychology at Iowa: Centennial Essays; from an article in the American Psychologist, January 1981; and from Barry Zimmerman's and Dale Schunk's wonderful chapter, "Albert Bandura: The Man and His Ideas," published in Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions (2002, Erlbaum); and from Tommy Tobin's (Stanford class of 2010) wonderful Stanford Daily article "The Humble Psychologist." Some passages are direct quotes from these sources. Consequently, scholars and students are urged to peruse these sources for purposes of quoting or citing.
For additional biographical information (and a nifty autographed photo), see
Bandura, A. (2006). Autobiography. M. G. Lindzey & W. M. Runyan (Eds.) A history of psychology in autobiography (Vol. IX). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
How to cite this document
Pajares, F. (2004). Albert Bandura: Biographical sketch. Retrieved month day, year, from http://des.emory.edu/mfp/bandurabio.html
Available filmed interviews with Professor Bandura
Title: Social Cognitive Theory. This video presents Prof. Bandura's far reaching theory. Compelling archival materials and other visuals illustrate the major concepts.Philip Zimbardo writes that "Albert Bandura is the most important contemporary psychological theorist in the world; his ideas have influenced generations of psychologists and now flow out to the general public via this fine video presentation. His thinking takes us to the fundamentals of human nature and he offers them here in an interesting format that is at once accessible and provocative." Utilizing archival materials and newly shot visuals, students will be introduced to the vocabulary and innovative methods of this influential thinker. Dr. Bandura’s narration imbues this video with his compelling presentation style and intellectual authority.
View a short clip from this film. Go to the complete discussion of this film. And read a review of this film. (2003) 38 minutes $250.
Davidson Films, Inc.
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San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: (805) 594-0422
Fax: (805) 594-0532
Toll free: (888) 437-4200
See the review of this video from Educational Media Reviews Online.
Title: Albert Bandura. Two 30-minute interviews [#40AD341; #40AD340] exploring the social cognitive theory of learning, motivation, modeling, aggression, cognitive behavior therapy, and selective moral disengagement.
New York, NY 10024-0621
Toll free: 800-233-9910
You may also order the films from Penn State Media Sales, the primary distributor for those titles.
Title: AABT Archives Videotapes: Bandura. In-depth interview on the transformative changes in the field of psychotherapy.
Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy
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FAX: (212) 647-1865
Search for Bandura at this site or on the web