Albert Bandura
Researched and written by:  Lindsay Thom
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

“Of the many cues that influence behavior, at any point in time, none is more common than the actions of others.”

  “What people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave.  The natural and extrinsic effects of their actions, in turn, partly determine their thought patterns and affective reactions.”


Childhood/Family Life    

Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925, in the small town of Mundare in northern Alberta, Canada (Boeree, 1998).  He was the youngest child and only boy among six children in a family of Eastern European descent.  Both of his parents had immigrated to Canada when they were both adolescents; his father from Krakow, Poland, and his mother from the Ukraine.  His parents placed a high value on educational attainment, although neither of them had any formal education.  For example, his father taught himself to read three languages: Polish, Russian, and German (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).      

Bandura's elementary and high school years were spent at the one and only school in town.  Due to the shortage of teachers and resources, learning was left largely to the students' own initiative.  Although the school was severely limited, it produced an atypical class of graduates, virtually all of whom went on to attend universities throughout the world (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  Bandura, after completing high school, worked in the Yukon filling holes to protect the Alaska Highway against its continual sinking (Boeree, 1998).  "Finding himself in the midst of a curious collection of characters, most of whom had fled creditors, alimony, the draft board, or probation officers, [Bandura] quickly developed a keen appreciation for the psychopathology of everyday life, which seemed to blossom in the austere tundra (Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, 1981, p. 28).

Adult Life

  In search of continuing his education, Bandura went westward to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (The Psi Cafe, 2001).  Bandura's choice of psychology as a major came about by complete chance.  He commuted each morning to the university in a carpool of engineering and pre-med students who started their day very early.  Although he intended to major in one of the biological sciences, Bandura noticed that an introductory psychology course would fill his schedule at the early time slot.  He decided to take the class, became extremely interested in psychology, and decided to concentrate on it.  Three years later, in 1949, he graduated with the Bolocan Award in Psychology.  This award is only given to the top student in psychology (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).             

Bandura then went on to pursue graduate study at the University of Iowa.  It was there that became interested in the behaviorist tradition and learning theory (Boeree, 1998).  He received his Ph.D. in 1952.  While studying at Iowa, he met Virginia Varns, an instructor at the College of Nursing.  Virginia and Albert married in 1952 and became parents to two daughters, Mary, who was born in 1954, and Carol, born in 1958 (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  After graduating from Iowa, Bandura took a postdoctoral position at the Wichita Guidance Center in Wichita, Kansas.  The following year, in 1953, he accepted a teaching position at Stanford where he continues to teach today (The Psi Cafe, 2001).             

At Stanford, Bandura began to work on family patterns that lead to aggressiveness in children.  The work on familial causes of aggression, conducted in collaboration with Richard Walters, his first graduate student, identified the central role of learning through observation of others (Pervin, Cervone, & John, 2005).  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.  The adolescents modeled the aggressive hostile attitudes of their parents (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  These findings lead 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 (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  Results from this work led Bandura to conduct a program of research on social modeling using an inflatable “Bobo doll”.  The children who participated in these studies were exposed to models either demonstrating violent or non-violent behaviors towards the Bobo doll.  Children who viewed violent models subsequently displayed forms of aggression towards the Bobo doll whereas the children in the control group rarely did so.  These results revealed that these children had changed their behavior by simply observing a model and not being personally reinforced.  These findings contradicted the standard behavioristic learning theory  (Boeree, 1998).  Bandura agreed that human behavior can be changed through reinforcement, but he also suggested, and demonstrated empirically, that individuals can learn behavior without experiencing reinforcement directly (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

Bandura also demonstrated that children could learn new patterns of behavior by way of other people without actually performing them or receiving rewards (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  He referred to this phenomenon as vicarious reinforcement, which can be defined as learning through the observation of other people's behavior and seeing the consequences of such behavior (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).  This research was summarized in a second book published in 1963 entitled Social Learning and Personality Development (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.). 

In developing his Social Learning Theory, Bandura identified four component processes that influence an observer when learning a modeled behavior (Bandura, 1977).  These components include attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.  Attention is the first component of observational learning.  In order for an individual to learn anything, he or she must pay attention to the features of the modeled behavior.  The second component is retention.  If an individual is to be influenced by observing behaviors he or she needs to remember the activities that were modeled.  Imagery and language aid in the process of retaining information.  Humans store the behaviors they observe in the form of mental images or verbal descriptors, and are then able to recall the image or description later to reproduce the activity with their own behavior.  Reproduction is the next process in observational learning.  Behavioral reproduction is accomplished by organizing one's own responses in accordance with the modeled pattern.  A person's ability to reproduce a behavior improves with practice.  The final process is motivation.  To imitate a behavior, the person must be motivated by something, such as the incentives that a person envisions.  These imagined incentives act as reinforcers (Bandura, 1977).  These components were introduced in Bandura's ambitious book, Social Learning Theory, which was published in 1977.  This book drastically altered the direction psychology was to take in the 1980s.  The theoretical analyses described within this book sparked the extraordinary growth of interest in social learning and psychological modeling (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).           

Bandura had developed a social cognitive theory of human functioning by the mid-1980s (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  He stressed the influence on external reinforcement schedules of such thought processes as beliefs, expectations, and instructions.  In Bandura's view, people are not merely machines that automatically respond to external stimuli.  Instead, reactions to stimuli are self-activated, initiated by the person.  Bandura disagreed with traditional behaviorists about there being a direct link between stimulus and response, or between behavior and reinforcement.  Instead, he suggested that a mechanism mediated between stimulus and response, and that mechanism is the person’s cognitive processes (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).  Bandura felt that human functioning is the product of the interaction between the environment, behavior, and the person's psychological functioning (Boeree, 1998).           

After reintroducing the emphasis on mental processes, Bandura conducted considerable research on self-efficacy.  He described self-efficacy as the sense of self-esteem and competence in dealing with life's problems (Bandura, 1982).  His work has shown that people who have a great deal of self-efficacy believe they are capable of coping with the diverse events in their lives.  They feel they have the ability to overcome obstacles.  People with low self-efficacy feel helpless about coping and feel that there is nothing they can do to change the situations they confront.  When they encounter problems, they are likely to give up if their initial attempt fails (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).  Through Bandura's research of self-efficacy, his theory has been applied to the fields of life-course development, education, health, psychopathology, athletics, business, and international affairs (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).                      

Bandura has made an even larger impact on the field of psychology, as seen in the many honors and awards he has received.  In 1972, he received a distinguished achievement award from the American Psychological Association and a Scientist Award from the California State Psychological Association.  In 1974, Bandura was elected president of the American Psychological Association.  In 1980, he was elected the president of the Western Psychological Association.  He received the Thorndike Award for Distinguished Contributions of Psychology to Education from the American Psychological Association in 1998.  In 2004, he also received the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  Bandura has also received several honorary degrees from universities all over the world (The Psi Cafe, 2001).           

Bandura has served psychology in a variety of ways, and his sense of concern with the uses to which its knowledge is put seems to influence 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 (“Albert Bandura”, n.d.).  More important than these academic pursuits, Bandura holds the view that securing happiness is the ultimate goal in life    The Bandura family is known to enjoy hiking in the majestic Sierras and the coastal ridges of California.  They also like to frequently attend the San Francisco Opera (Pajares, n.d.).  However, no joy could ever surpass that of playing with his grandchildren, identical twins Andy and Tim (“Albert Bandura,” n.d.).     


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Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist,

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Boeree, C.G. (1998). Personality theories: Albert Bandura. Retrieved March 30, 2005,

Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award [Bandura]. (1981). American Psychologist,
, 27-28.

Pajares, F. (n.d.). Albert Bandura.  Human ecology: An encyclopedia of children,
       families, communities, and environments
. Santa Barbara, CA.

Pajares, P. (2001).  Bandura Quotable Quotes. Retrieved March 30, 2005, from

Pervin, L.A., Cervone, D., & John, O.P. (2005). Personality Theory and Research
       (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The Psi Cafe: Albert Bandura. (2001). Retrieved March 30, 2005, from

Schultz, D.P. & Schultz, S.E. (2004).  A History of Modern Psychology (8th ed.).
        Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, Inc.




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