Social Cognitive Theory
Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) describes the influence of individual experiences, the actions of others, and
environmental factors on individual health behaviors. SCT provides opportunities for social support through
instilling expectations, self-efficacy, and using observational learning and other reinforcements to achieve
Key components of the SCT related to individual behavior change include:
Self-efficacy: The belief that an individual has control over and is able to execute a
Behavioral capability: Understanding and having the skill to perform a behavior.
Expectations: Determining the outcomes of behavior change.
Expectancies: Assigning a value to the outcomes of behavior change.
Self-control: Regulating and monitoring individual behavior.
Observational learning: Watching and observing outcomes of others performing or modeling
the desired behavior.
Reinforcements: Promoting incentives and rewards that encourage behavior change.
Social Cognitive Theory Examples
Relationships, a program implemented by Chattanooga
CARES, is a small-group intervention for people living with HIV/AIDS. The program is based on the
Social Cognitive Theory and uses skill-building exercises to increase independence and develop healthy
behaviors among participants.
HoMBReS is a community-based
intervention designed to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among Latino
men living in rural areas of the United States. Based on the Social Cognitive Theory, the program trains
“Navegantes” (Navigators) who provide information and risk reduction materials to the target
Considerations for Implementation
The SCT can be applied as a theoretical framework in different settings and populations. It is frequently used
guide behavior change interventions. It may be particularly useful in rural communities for examining how
individuals interact with their surroundings. The SCT can be used to understand the influence of social
determinants of health and a person's past experiences on behavior change.
Resources to Learn More
Provides an overview of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) in health promotion activities.
Organization(s): Boston University School of Public Health