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The theory by Bandura is differentiated from the contemporary social learning theory as it adds the cognitive perspective that emphasizes the role of cognition in people’s ability to construct reality, encode information received, self-regulate based on the given information, and act. Social cognitive theory views people as proactive, self-organizing, self-reflecting, and self-regulating based on the environmental conditions, rather than being reactive as a result of existing environmental forces or basic inner impulses (Bryant & Oliver, 2009). It means that for social cognitive theory, introspection is vital for envisaging the influence of environmental outcomes, such as media have on behavior, since people make sense of their psychological processes through introspection.
Social cognitive theory also points out the bidirectional influence of the environmental pressures in altering human development and behavior. For instance, individuals can construct complex environmental innovations, which, in turn, create functional consciousness, language, and symbolic communication. In this respect, the theory sums up that human functioning is the consequence of reciprocal determinism and a dynamic relationship between the following factors: (1) personal factors such as cognition, (2) behavior, and (3) environmental influences such as media, which interact to influence human behavior (Bandura, 1986).
This theory is anchored on four cornerstones: (1) human agency, which is a viewed as a foundation of social learning that asserts that people are proactively betrothed in their own development and are capable of exercising control over their feelings, thoughts, and actions (Bandura, 1986); (2) human capabilities, also viewed as the foundation of social learning that stresses symbolization, self-reflection, forethought, self-regulation, and vicarious learning that help with extracting meaning from the environment and eliciting action and communication; (3) vicarious learning, which emphasizes observational learning by observing the behaviors of others as governed by the processes f attention, retention, production, and motivation, noting that a person can cultivate rules to guide his successive behavior; (4) self-efficacy that implements the enactment of those learned behaviors (Bryant & Oliver, 2009). Self-efficacy outlines the judgments that a person holds about the abilities to implement a behavior at designated levels.
How the Theory Affects People
This theory affects people in a number of ways. The theory explains how and why people make meaning of environmental influences by being proactive, self-organizing, self-reflecting, and self-regulating. Media effects and influences on the society are explained by the social cognitive theory, in which individual makes meaning of the environment. Peoples’ behavior is shaped by observational learning, in which individuals observe how others act in the society and shape their own behavior. In addition, social cognitive theory explains how people pursue their own development and are capable of exercising control over their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Importance of Social Cognitive Theory
Therefore, this theory is important for making the society aware of the influences of the environment on the behavior of individuals. It means that bad behavior is likely to produce bad behavior, and vice versa. The media as an opinion shaper of the society, as a result of disseminated information, need to be careful in this aspect with the press releases and given information. Media can elicit either positive or negative influence on the society. Equally, the theory highlights human capabilities to introspect, premeditate, and self-regulate, when taking action.
A recent media example that hit the headlines of the international television news and newspaper publications was a protest by the Kenyan women in Nairobi capital against the public striping of women considered to have dressed scantily. The protest dubbed ‘My Dress My Choice’ met both support and opposition with equall measure. It was a clear manifestation of how media influences behavior (Cuddihy, 2014). For a long time, media used skimpy attire to sell products like hamburgers with the help of commercials. As a result of such consistency, people were gradually influenced. Presently, gone are the days when it was shocking to see an undergarment in the commercial. People are used to seeing undergarments attached to live models to appoint that people find it normal to dress in such short and skimpy attires. Equally, it is very rare to find an overweight woman presented on television, as a desirable woman is seen as a slim model. These media approaches have managed to shape the perception of the society that women are required to be of a particular weight.
It in an indication of how powerful media is in influencing behavior. It also explains the social cognitive theory. Based on the vicarious learning, which emphasizes observational learning through watching other people’s behaviors, people are governed by the processes of attention, retention, production, and motivation. People watch media clips, then they self-reflect, and cultivate rules that guide their successive behavior.
Media has a responsibility to be ethical and moral. If I was in charge of such program, I would refuse to show the extreme cases, and edit out clips containing live pictures of people dressed scantily for the sake of the children-viewers, who easily get influenced, and respect for the families. The media example about ‘My Dress, My Choice’ also showed women in miniskirts, which, to my mind, should have been edited.
The stripping incident and subsequent stripping was affected by the mother, who was shocked to see a woman assaulted by men and the protesting women walked almost naked. The effect was psychological, since the news was aired live for everyone to see. It was immoral towards the woman. We are left wondering when good morals left the society. The effect is not very strong any more, since people are used to seeing such pictures in media.