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Social Cognitive Theory, Social Learning and Socio-economic Change in Mass Communication: A Case Study Approach from Pakistan’s Perspective

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract:
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature review & theoretical framework
  4. Social Cognitive Theory Of Mass Communication And Socio-Economic Development Of Pakistan
  5. Limitation Of The Theory And Study
  6. References


This essay gives you important guidelines on the detailed explanation of the Social Cognitive Theory i.e. historical background on the development of Social Cognitive Theory, evolution to the current status and contribution of Albert Bandura as the main theorist as well as other social scientists. This essay goes into the detail explanation of social learning and social change with the application of media interaction and learning, the introduction of International Communication Technology (ICT), a rapid increase in media contents consumption and the interaction of general public through the phenomenon explained in Social Cognitive Theory in the context of Pakistani society. It has been put into analysis to observe that how the rapid change in mass media particularly International Communication Technology (ICT) has contributed toward the socio-economic development of Pakistan in particular and social awareness via learning through traditional and social media interaction of the public in general. It was very interesting to guess the assumption that with the introduction of mass media particularly International Communication Technology has encouraged the public to consume as much as media contents as possible. As a result, social interaction through traditional means of media and social media using ICT, enhanced public knowledge of different social issues particularly political awareness, citizen and public rights, public diplomacy and flow of knowledge from social scientists and intellectuals toward general public were noticed as heavily influencing public life standard and improvement in all other sectors of life.

Keyword: human agency, international communication technology (ICT), mass media, public diplomacy, self-efficacy, social cognitive theory, socio-economic development, social media.


Social learning is considered to be an important developmental tool for every society in modern era. With the introduction of International Communication Technology (ICT) such satellite, mobile phone, 4G & 5G internet, and with the rapid spread of social media through all these means, the impact on the socio-economic changes caused, social learning and succeeding behaviour in routine life and so of public’s lives make it more crucial to be examined. Social cognitive theory of psychology a long time ago, made it possible to study the role of certain elements in the social learning within society. The use of the term “social learning theory of mass communication” by Albert Bandura as the title of one of his very important articles, highlighted the importance more and put more emphasis on the topic (Albert Bandura, 2001). The interdisciplinary use of the terminology both in psychology and mass communication started after Albert Bandura published this work of him in a very recent attempt. With the emergence of media and mass communication, the social cognitive theory was very closely associated. Later become a base for the study of mass media effects as mentioned in a famous work done by Frank and his colleagues in their article “Social Cognitive Theory and Mass Media Effects” (Chen, Nabi, Pajares, & Prestin, 2003).

In Pakistan, the introduction and spread of modern media and its related tools made it possible seemingly that the awareness among the public on different issues of social and economic importance is assumed to be more clearly understood than previous. This particular assumption reveals that there is some very crucial relationship of the past decade media revolution in the country and the socio-economic development, social and political awareness and the paradigm shift in the mindset of the general public. Socio-economic development with an impact from social and political awareness is set to be analyzed in this study using social cognitive theory as a framework.

There have been some few case studies of the same nature but this paper is unique in its nature as it only focuses on the Pakistani perspective of the topic explained above.

Literature review & theoretical framework

The foundation and configuration of an early version of the Social Cognitive Theory were laid by Edwin B. Bolt and Harold Chapman Brown in 1931 when they come up with their own theory called “Holt’s Social Learning and Imitation Theory”. According to Holt’s Social Learning and Imitation Theory, there is three bases for action; feeling, emotion and desire. Human acts when he/she feels something from within him/her (personal beliefs, perceptions and traits). Human acts with the set of emotion he/she already possesses. Every human being has some desire and commits certain behaviors in routine life keeping in mind those desires. Later in 1941, Neal E. Miller and John Dollard revised Hold and Brown’s version of Social Learning Theory in their book. According to them, there are four factors that contribute towards learning; drives, cues, responses and rewards. Social motivation is a drive that is based on imitativeness. Action is attached and matched against cues to be performed or not. Consequent positive or negative response against an action, make a base for the action to be performed or not.

In 1963, a Canadian psychologist and social scientist Albert Bandura formally theorized all these statements for the first time. His original work was on children’s aggressiveness. He wanted to find out “why and when” they act with aggressiveness. He argued that Social Learning Theory suggests a direct correlation of one’s perceived behavioural change and self-efficacy. He further stated that self-efficacy is the product that comes from four sources; performance accomplishment, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. An individual will learn to change his/her behaviour if he/she sees the accomplishment made with the same behaviour previously. Learning and behavioural change will be caused if a person wants to have vicarious experience. Verbal persuasion by someone to do something is also a motive to gain self-efficacy and social learning. Physiological needs also push an individual to change behaviour.

Later in 1986 in his second book, Albert Bandura explained his renamed his theory a bit more. This new and reformed theory of him was called “Social Cognitive Theory”. This change in the name was because of the role of cognition in indoctrinating and performing behaviours. Finally, he concluded that human behaviour is the product of environmental, personal and behavioural influences.

Social cognitive theory is being used in communication, psychology, and education. According to the theory “One can acquire knowledge and learn by direct observation of others during social interaction, experiences an individual has gone through and from the media contents consumed”. This theory has been divided into two co-existing groups of four factors that work together and have a mutual dependency. The first two, human capabilities and agency, suggests that human being is always working on self-development and they have control over their feelings, emotions, thoughts and so. Second two, self-efficacy and vicarious learning, suggests that individuals imitate others in order to develop rules for their subsequent acts and then that imitative behaviour is implemented for self-development. Learned behaviours are not enacted unless and until one sees self-efficacy in the same.

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During the 1940s, when behaviourist movements were on the peak in psychology, theories like classical conditioning and so were of the view that human behaviour is only under the strong influence of external stimuli and self traits within an individual just transmit those behaviours. This notion of “associationism” was rejected by American psychologists and the concept of social learning was introduced.

Albert Bandura in his famous paper “Social cognitive theory of mass communication” introduced social cognitive theory formally to the field of Mass Communication. Albert Bandura explained the two pathways of communication systems. In the first pathway, individuals are directly exposed to media contents to consume the same with the intention of informing, motivating and guiding participants. In the second pathway, certain linked elements are directed and influenced to motivate others in a community for certain desirable changes.

There are three major components of social cognitive approach for fostering society wide changes;

  1. Theoretical model: This model specifies the determinants of psychological change and the mechanism through which they produce their effects.
  2. Translational and implementational model: The model converts theoretical principles into an innovative operational model and it specifies the content, strategies of change and their mode of implementation.
  3. Social diffusion model: A social diffusion model on how to promote adoption of psychosocial programs in diverse cultural milieus.

Four basic principles guide the construction of the media contents;

  1. Social Modelling: This principle enlists the power of social modelling for personal and social changes. When audience members see people similar to themselves change their lives for the better, it not only conveys strategies for how to change but it also raises viewers’ sense of efficacy that they too can succeed. Viewer come to admire and are inspired by character in their likenesses who struggles obstacles and eventually overcome them.
  2. Vicarious motivators: This principle guiding the content production is the use of vicarious motivators as incentives for change in society. Unless people see the character life style as improving welfare, they have little incentive to adopt it. The personal and social benefits of the favourable practices, and the costs of the detrimental ones, are vividly portrayed.
  3. Attention and emotional engagement: According to the principle, to change, deeply held beliefs and social practices, people must develop strong emotional bonding to enabling models who exemplify a vision of a better future and realistic paths to it.
  4. Behavioral beliefs and attitudes: Attitude toward a behavior is assumed to be a function of beliefs about the behavior’s likely consequences, together with the valence (positive and negative) attached to those consequences.

According to Albert Bandura, media contents can serve as the principal vehicle for promoting personal and social changes related to socio-economic issues of a country. The media contents people consume realize people with the consequences of any social practice that is performed during a drama serial, or so. The contents in media made them learn, inform, enable, motivate toward individual movement to alter their lives into better ones. The same impact is brought by social media where domestic as well as global contents motivate a group of individuals to raise their voice for their rights and so. This sort of motivation enables an individual to get a positive inspiration from media for positive consequences.

Social Cognitive Theory Of Mass Communication And Socio-Economic Development Of Pakistan

A lot of research has investigated the preconditions, contents and outcomes of social learning, little is known about the processes of social learning. A case study from Sweden explores how social learning processes unfolded in a regional collaborative project, the Resolve project, carried out in Sweden. This study made several noteworthy contributions to existing knowledge about social learning by providing detailed descriptions of social learning processes. The significant findings of the study were that social learning was facilitated and encouraged through the opportunity to ask critical questions and to engage in collective decision-making.

The research aimed to contribute to deepen the understanding of social learning processes and to offer insights about social learning processes in adaptive and collaborative management. To do so, action research was conducted focusing on experiences emerging from a case study in which social learning processes were enhanced through workshops in designing a regional project named Resolve, carried out in Uppsala, Sweden.

Research questions were:

  1. In the process of designing a collaborative project regarding local sustainable development in Uppsala region, is social learning taking place? If so, to what extent and how does social learning unfold? If not, why is social learning hindered from happening?
  2. How should social learning processes be facilitated in adaptive and collaborative projects in order to lead collective actions and better decision makings for Sustainable development?

Limitation Of The Theory And Study

Albert Bandura has failed to explain why individuals imitate others although they are not reinforced to do so.


  1. Bandura, A. (2012). Social cognitive theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (p. 349–373). Sage Publications Ltd.
  2. Bandura, A. (1994). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), LEA’s communication series. Media effects: Advances in theory and research (p. 61–90). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  3. Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  4. Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.
  5. Bandura, A. & Walters, R. (1963). Social Learning and Personality Development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  6. Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of Behavior Modification. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  7. Deetjen, U. & Powell, J.A. 2016. Informational and emotional elements in online support groups: A Bayesian approach to large-scale content analysis. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 23(3): 508-513.
  8. Kim, M. (2014). Social learning for sustainable development: findings from a case study in Sweden (Master dissertation). Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University.
  9. Omotoso, L. S. (2010). The Use of Media in Community Economic Development Practice: A Case Study of the Village Square, Nigeria (Master dissertation). Manchester, NH: Southern New Hampshire University.
  10. Pajares, Frank; Prestin, Abby; Chen, Jason A.; and Nabi, Robin L., ‘Social Cognitive Theory and Mass Media Effects’ (2009). Book Chapters. 3.

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Social Cognitive Theory, Social Learning and Socio-economic Change in Mass Communication: A Case Study Approach from Pakistan’s Perspective. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Social Cognitive Theory, Social Learning and Socio-economic Change in Mass Communication: A Case Study Approach from Pakistan’s Perspective.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Social Cognitive Theory, Social Learning and Socio-economic Change in Mass Communication: A Case Study Approach from Pakistan’s Perspective. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Social Cognitive Theory, Social Learning and Socio-economic Change in Mass Communication: A Case Study Approach from Pakistan’s Perspective [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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