Bandura’s Theory of personality is a favored perspective as it accounts for the dynamic properties of the personality. It does not discount the reactive portion of human personalities, but it addresses some of the shortcomings of other theories. It can explain how personality traits can be changed through behavioral modification and motivation. Bandura’s personality theory can be applied to the clinical setting as a basis for changing consistent behavioral patterns.
Personality Theory Preference
Personality is a set of enduring behaviors, thought patterns, and characteristics that represents an individual. There are many different theories as to how human personality is shaped. When choosing a favored personality theory, it is necessary to approach the topic based on the complexity human personalities. Although everyone has persistent tendencies towards certain behaviors and patterns, there are situation where one may behave or feel in a way that is contrary to their base personality. When this happens, it can result in a new behavioral pattern, or the person may return to their normal behaviors when the situation is normal. The ability for the personality to adjust over time and in the face of certain situations means that personality is not static, but a response to a continually changing world. In light of this, my favored personality theory is the Social Cognitive Theory of Personality.
The Social Cognitive Theory of Personality was developed by Albert Bandura. Bandura built on existing theories of Skinner as the basis of their new approach. Bandura believed that personality was developed through the interaction of several different elements. These included behaviors, environmental factors, and cognitive factors (Bandura, 2001). Bandura considers the human mind to be reflective, proactive, and creative (Bandura, 2001). One of the things that I like about this theory is its ability explain how people can have a dream and then have the ability to go out into the world and create it. One example of this is a business plan or a piece of artwork. Both of these are born from a person’s thoughts, they are not a reaction to something in the past.
Bandura (1986) does not consider personality and behavior to be fixed, but something that can be changed through willful thought. Humans do not simply shift according to external influences. They have an internal mechanism that keeps them headed into a certain direction in their life. Bandura’s theory on personality is a favorite of mine because it explains personality in a dynamic sense. There are many examples of people who were a certain way, and who demonstrated certain personality traits. Something would happen to them, or perhaps they would simply wake up one morning and decide that they wanted to change something about themselves, or that they wanted to be a certain way, or take on a set of behaviors and traits.
One example of this is someone who was an angry, bitter person who decided at some time to smile more or to engage in philanthropic activities. Another example is the drug addict who decides to finally get help and later becomes a business person. There are examples of people changing their lives until they no longer resemble their former personalities at all. Theories that rely on the concept that personality is fixed do not explain these dramatic changes. The ability to explain personality variations and changes is one of the key reasons for choosing Bandura’s theories as a favorite.
People continually engage in self-examination, sometimes in the form of self-criticism. This continual self-examination allows them to manage their behaviors to support their beliefs about themselves. Bandura takes this factor into account. People are influences by their early social conditioning and this experience forms part of their early personality. However, a static personality theory would suggest that their personality would not change. Bandura’s theories contradict static personality theories by examining the process of self-examination and the ability of the person to change. One can find many real life examples that support Bandura’s theories on personality development. For instance, when some people grow up and move away from the family and community that formed their early childhood experiences and social conditioning, they will become an entirely different personality. These differences become most apparent when they return to the home town from which they came.
Bandura’s personality theory could be applied in the clinical setting as a framework for change, or the elimination of undesirable personality traits. Because our personalities are made of consistent behaviors, a mental health professional can help the person to recognize negative behavior patterns and help them to develop a plan for changing them. Once the new behavior patterns become fixed and the old behavior patterns no longer exist, the person’s personality has been intentionally changed. They are no longer associated with the old set of behaviors and the new set of behaviors becomes their new personality.
Bandura’s theories are based on the ability to facilitate changes in behavior and to develop a new personality altogether. In doing so, Bandura’s personality theory touches on human motivation. Behaviors can be changed if the person has a strong commitment to changing them. The therapist can play a significant role in helping people to change unwanted behaviors and personality traits so that they can become the person that they want to be. Bandura’s theory leads to the concept that personality is a choice, to some degree.
One of the key challenges to Bandura’s personality theory is that individuals do have some degree of control over their personality and normal behavioral patterns, but they do not have complete control. They are still the result of social conditioning, biology, brain patterns and other traits that the person cannot control. Personality is a result of a combination of these factors. Bandura’s theory does allow the person to change the part of the personality that they can control. If one applies Bandura’s theory on a practical level, it does not make the person simply a victim of their circumstances. They have the ability to change those things that they can change.
- Bandura A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Bandura, A. (2010, February). Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective. Annual Review of Psychology. 52: 1-26. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.1