Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925, in a hamlet in northern Alberta, Canada, the only son in a family of five older sisters. In 1949 he graduated from the University of British Columbia. He attended graduate school at the University of Iowa and, while there, married Virginia Varns. Bandura received his M.A. degree in 1951 and his Ph.D. in 1952 under the direction of Arthur Benton. Aland “Ginny” became parents to two daughters, Carol and Mary.
Bandura joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1953, where he has remained throughout his career. In collaboration with Richard Walters, his first doctoral student, Bandura conducted studies of social learning and aggression. Their joint efforts illustrated the critical role of modeling in human behavior and led to a program of research into observational learning (part of which is known in the history of psychology as the “Bobo Doll studies”). The program also led to Bandura's first book, Adolescent Aggression, written in collaboration with Walters and published in 1959. In 1974, Bandura became David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. In 1977, he published the ambitious Social Learning Theory, which sparked the interest in social learning and psychological modeling that took place during the last two decades of the 20th century.
Bandura has collaborated in projects with internationally renowned scholars such as Jack Barchas and Barr Taylor in psychiatry, Robert DeBusk in cardiology, Halsted Holman in internal medicine, and Philip Zim-bardo in psychology. One of these projects studied how people's perceptions of their own ability to control what they viewed as threats to themselves influence the release of neurotransmitters and stress-related hormones into the bloodstream. A major finding that resulted from these studies was that people can regulate their level of physiological activation through their belief in their own capabilities to do so, or their self-efficacy beliefs. In the course of investigating the processes by which modeling alleviates phobic disorders, Bandura again found that changes in behavior and fear arousal were mediated through the beliefs that individuals had in their own capabilities to alleviate their phobia. From the late 1970s, a major share of his research attention was devoted to exploring the role that these self-efficacy beliefs play in human functioning.
With the publication of Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory in 1986, Bandura put forth a view of human functioning in which individuals are agents proactively engaged in their own development and can make things happen by their actions. From this perspective, the beliefs that people have about themselves are critical elements in their exercise of control and personal agency. In his 1997 book, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, Bandura set forth the tenets of his theory of self-efficacy beliefs and its applications to diverse fields of human accomplishment.
Self-efficacy has generated research in areas as diverse as medicine, business, sports, and, of course, psychology. Research has been especially prominent in education, where researchers have established that self-efficacy beliefs and educational attainments are highly correlated and that self-efficacy is an excellent predictor of academic success. In fact, self-efficacy has proven to be a more consistent predictor of educational outcomes than has any other motivation construct.
As the new century dawned, Bandura broadened the scope of his thinking to expound a social cognitive theory capable of encompassing the critical issues of the new millennium. Hehas written on escaping homelessness, environmental sustainability, and population growth. He has proposed a social cognitive view of mass communication, explained the self-regulatory mechanisms governing transgressive behavior, and shown how perceived social inefficacy can lead to depression and substance abuse. Exploring the moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities, Bandura outlined the psychosocial tactics by which individuals and societies selectively disengage moral self-sanctions from inhumane conduct and called for “a civilized life” in which humane standards are buttressed “by safeguards built into social systems that uphold compassionate behavior and renounce cruelty.”
As of 2007, Bandura has authored seven books and edited two others, and he has written over 250 articles and book chapters. In 1974 he was elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA). His contributions to psychology have been recognized in the many honors and awards he has received. He has received the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award of the APA, the William James Award from the Association for Psychological Science, the Distinguished Contribution Award from the International Society for Research in Aggression, and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.
Richard I. Evans, R. I. (1989). Albert Bandura, the man and his ideas—a dialogue. New York: Praeger.