The Social Cognitive Approach: The Environment and Patterns of Thought

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This paper represents a specialized literature review work that examines and concludes three credible and relevant scholarly articles related to the field of social cognitive approach in psychology. The essential condition and limit in the process of searching studies was the time period, and due to the principles of academic writing, only works that were published within the last five years were accepted. All the reviewed articles are connected to the sphere of social cognitive theory in the manner that they emphasize several important notions of the conception, for instance, behavior patterns and behavior choices. In these papers, the authors apply the aspects of the social cognitive approach to various types of activities and phenomena, for example, motivation and physical activity. Hence, it was revealed that the social cognitive approach is ubiquitous in psychology since its implications can be found in different behavioral settings and life conditions. The Social Cognitive Approach: The Environment and Patterns of Thought


Parts of an individual’s information literacy and acquisition can be intimately related to seeing others within the way people communicate and the context of social relationships, encounters, and outside cultural influences, according to social cognition theory. This concept is widely utilized in psychology, teaching, and information sharing. This theory also describes personal health habits that are influenced by personal memories and events, other people’s actions, and environmental circumstances. Three relevant scholarly articles related to the topic of social cognitive approach and its aspects were chosen for the literature review.

First Article

The first article that was initially selected for the literature review work is named “How mouse-tracking can advance social cognitive theory.” The study was written by the authors Paul Stillman, Xi Shen, and Melissa Ferguson. The article can be described as relevant, valid, and credible since it was published within a five-year period in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2018. Mouse-tracking, which involves following users’ computer mouse movements as they select answer alternatives, is a new technology that provides an accessible, data-rich, and meaningful insight into how individuals classify and make judgments (Stillman et al., 2018). The authors of this paper evaluate contemporary social cognition investigation that employs mouse-tracking to examine models and develop theory (Stillman et al., 2018). Mouse-tracking, in specific, enables the study of subtle hypotheses about the nature of communication or conflict, its effects, and how the conflict is handled or decisions are made. The authors discuss studies in two areas, namely social categorization and self-discipline, to illustrate how mouse-tracking might advance theoretical knowledge.

The researchers particularly highlight a consideration of future prospects and the limits of mouse-tracking as a tool. Traditional cognitive theories of choice and classification suggested that these activities emerge in a sequential trend, with the motor outcome being launched after a decision is made (Stillman et al., 2018). However, it is essential to emphasize that current evidence reveals that these mechanisms are essentially redundant (Stillman et al., 2018). This research has demonstrated that motor motions are constantly changed to reflect fundamental cognitive processes (Stillman et al., 2018). This indicates that mouse movements, velocities, and trajectories can be utilized as a surrogate for studying authentic classification and decision mechanisms. Thus, mouse-tracking provides an extremely detailed, real-time view of how conflict arises in judgments and choices. Mouse-tracking data provides an accessible, effective, and distinctive approach to test and enhance conflict theory in a variety of cognitive and interpersonal psychology areas.

The theoretical advancements correspond to the two most used approaches for studying mouse trajectories. Firstly, mouse-tracking can identify reaction conflict between two possibilities in a particular decision with high sensitivity (Stillman et al., 2018). Scholars have utilized this to investigate the origins and repercussions of decisional conflict in a variety of disciplines (Stillman et al., 2018). The comparative pull of an objectively disordered alternative during mouse-tracking enables a possibly more precise assessment of the conflict between two options, similar to how response time provides a more precise measurement of cognitive availability (Stillman et al., 2018). Furthermore, since mouse trajectories are real-time, scientists may analyze how a particular judgment or conclusion changes (Stillman et al., 2018). As a result, sophisticated theories of how the cognitive processing structure eventually decides on a depiction or decision may be tested and developed (Stillman et al., 2018). These methods, when used together, enable researchers to go beyond fixed options and take advantage of the dynamic environment of judgment and decision.

Concerning the particular limitations and drawbacks related to the research, it is feasible to emphasize several notions. Even though the authors have advocated for the effectiveness of mouse-tracking studies, it is vital to remark that their structure makes them inappropriate for some domains. For instance, single-trial mouse patterns might be noisy, necessitating a multi-trial method that is not always practical (Stillman et al., 2018). Furthermore, the essence of mouse-tracking necessitates explicit decisions, which might be troublesome for actions that are often monitored indirectly (Stillman et al., 2018). As a result, while selecting response possibilities during a classification or assessment job, caution must be applied. Finally, it is crucial to note that certain participants may apply techniques that contradict mouse-tracking beliefs on occasion (Stillman et al., 2018). At the same time, this work differs for the better in comparison with other publications described in this paper since it contains more detailed information, as well as visual modeling of the study results.

Social cognitive theory encompasses various explanations and discussions that were generated by a wide range of scholars and psychologists. In fact, the general factor that unites all the versions is connected to behavioral patterns and behavioral transformation processes. In particular, behavior transformations and changes have a substantial impact on all spheres of life since they depend on choices selection, as well as behavioral patterns. One of the fields of activity that is strongly linked to behavior choices and patterns is physical activity or physical exercises. It is possible to highlight that the aspects of physical activity include multiple factors, ranging from physical activity in sportsmen and professional athletes to amateurs and ordinary people that prefer a healthy lifestyle and regular training. The following article’s statements and examinations focus on the relationship between social cognitive theory and regular physical activity, revealing essential influences in terms of behavior changes.

Second Article

The second article that was chosen for the literature review discussion work is named “Social cognitive theory and physical activity: Mechanisms of behavior change, critique, and legacy.” This paper was written by the authors Mark Beauchamp, Kaitlin Crawford, and Ben Jackson. The selected article can be considered relevant and valid since it was published in the academic journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise in 2019. According to the research, Bandura created social cognitive approach in order to better understand and describe the phenomenon of human behavior (Beauchamp et al., 2019). The causal pathways through which efficacy assumptions, result expectancies, sociostructural variables, and objectives impact behavior are outlined in this theory (Beauchamp et al., 2019). In fact, it can be stated that Bandura’s notions and assumptions were utilized in order to assess the sphere of physical activity.

In order to describe the purpose of the research, it is possible to emphasize the application of social cognitive theory to physical activity. The goal of this study is to assess the present level of knowledge in the field of physical exercise (Beauchamp et al., 2019). It is necessary since it pertains to Bandura’s social cognition theory’s key premises, particularly those areas of the concept that have gained minimal attention (Beauchamp et al., 2019). The study focuses on five major criticisms and disagreements surrounding social cognitive theory, as well as a review of the application’s inheritance in the physical activity realm (Beauchamp et al., 2019). It is explored what implications are for theory development, continued studies, and knowledge transfer.

Despite some of the criticisms, social cognition concept has unquestionably left an indelible impact and a significant heritage on the mental health field in general and physical activity psychology in specific. While the criticisms highlight the need for theoretical improvement and methodological advancements, many of social cognitive theory’s fundamental, empirical, and practical discoveries have been widespread, particularly in the realm of physical exercise (Beauchamp et al., 2019). To begin with, it should be noted that many popular theories of human success and health-related behaviors used in sport and exercise science incorporate an efficacy or effectiveness-related component (Beauchamp et al., 2019). Moreover, studies in the physical exercise area reveal that effectiveness and efficacy perceptions are important (Beauchamp et al., 2019). For instance, authors discovered that self-efficacy was one of the most constant correlations and drivers of physical activity behavior throughout the age span in a well-known systematic analysis of research findings (Beauchamp et al., 2019). Hence, it is feasible to note that one of the aspects described in the social cognitive theories works, which is efficacy beliefs, is also reflected in articles related to physical activity.

The belief that humans may engage in foresight and deliberate self-regulation to determine their own fates is an especially compelling remnant of social cognitive theory. People can, for instance, consciously imagine other versions of themselves in order to improve their physical exercise habits (Beauchamp et al., 2019). Transformations in physical activity patterns were shown to be characterized by individuals’ self-regulatory efficacy values, which was unanticipated (Beauchamp et al., 2019). In a similar manner, the findings of a meta-analysis indicated that using mental images as a cognitive technique was linked to substantial changes in physical activity perception (Beauchamp et al., 2019). As a result, confirmation of some of the psychological factors that cause human behavior modification has been offered by the framework.

Referring to the drawbacks regarding the selected article, it is possible to conclude that the research was exclusively focused on Bandura’s approach related to social cognitive theory. Given the substantial number of relevant sources analyzed, the article lacks the presence of raw data and statistics on how, for example, social cognitive theory notions influenced people connected to regular physical activity. For instance, a social setting or a particular population of professional athletes and sportsmen could have been identified in order to apply some of the theory’s notions. In fact, it is essential to recognize specific impacts linked to discipline and motivation in professional types of sports.

Any intentional or voluntary body action that needs calorie and energy expenditure is classified as physical activity. Physical exercise refers to any activity that is done at any moment of day or night, at whatever intensity. It comprises both exercise and non-exercise activities that are incorporated into daily activities. Physical exercise encompasses all forms of movement, whether for recreation, transportation to and from locations, or as part of one’s job. Thus, the notions of physical activity, especially the ones referred to physical exercise and choices to do them, are connected to the phenomenon of motivation. The procedure of initiating, guiding, and maintaining goal-oriented activities is known as motivation. It is what motivates individuals to do action, whether it is to quench their hunger with a drink of water or to obtain information by reading a book. The physiological, emotional, interpersonal, and cognitive variables that trigger behavior are all part of motivation. It is essential to underline that motivation and linked to it aspects are also recognized and described by social cognitive approach.

Third Article

The third article that was selected for the literature review paper is called “Motivation and social cognitive theory,” which was written by the scholars Dale Schunk and Maria DiBenedetto. The work represents a relevant and credible source of information since it was published in the scientific journal Contemporary Educational Psychology in 2020. Motivation is discussed in this article through the lens of social cognitive theory and related to it approaches. Motivation is a term that describes the processes that lead to and perpetuate goal-directed behavior (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Internal and external forces that contribute to consequences such as decision, effort, determination, accomplishment, and environmental regulation are known as motivational variables (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). From the initial modeling and simulation to the contemporary conceptualization of action, motivation has been a significant aspect of social cognition theory (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). After discussing the theoretical foundation of reciprocal relationships, research on physiological, contextual, and personal impacts on motivation is described (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Objectives and self-evaluations of development, self-efficacy, social identification, values, result expectancies, inferences, and self-regulation are all important internal motivational mechanisms.

Diversification and culture, approach, and long-term repercussions of interventions are among the difficulties that the theory faces. Further recommendations for future study on settings, theoretical explanation, and technology are also included in the discussion of the paper (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). The social situation and social context have a vital role in motivation, cognition, and self-regulation, according to social cognitive approach and its key notions (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Since there are other social cognitive conceptual viewpoints, the analysis in this article is overall confined to Bandura’s social cognitive theoretical framework. This model has a wide range of applications in psychology as well as other domains, including teaching, commerce, and health (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). The theory’s assumptions have been put to the test in a variety of research investigations. Even though the terminology “Bandura’s social cognitive philosophy” is utilized in this article, Zimmerman, Schunk, Pajares, and Usher are among others who have contributed to the development, testing, and expansion of the theory (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). The topic in this text focuses on the function of motivation, which is defined as processes that present themselves explicitly in objective behaviors.

In fact, it is compulsory to discuss in detail the aspects of Bandura’s specific approach to motivation in social cognitive theory analyzed in the article. Bandura’s previous theory of social learning highlighted the significance of observational education or learning that takes place without the learner putting on a show (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). People must pay attention to a model, remember what the framework did cognitively, be able to reproduce the training set or modeled behavior, and be encouraged to do so, according to Bandura (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Original modeling research found a number of model qualities that might influence observers’ motivation, including perceived simulation competency, model position, and perceived model resemblance (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Anticipated positive outcomes for completing modeled activities were a substantial factor in motivating actions (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). These cognitive assumptions, or result expectancies, are formed by social relationships between simulations and observers. Thus, in social cognition theory, self-efficacy is a vital internal motivating component that emerges from both critical and goal-oriented consciousness and self-reflection.

Concerning the particular shortcomings and drawbacks of the selected article, it is feasible to emphasize the lack of statistical data presence and analysis. In this discussion, the authors mostly utilized secondary data analysis techniques rather than providing deep sociological research. Most social cognitive studies in the field of motivation, like other research based on other conceptual approaches, are short-term in nature (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Many investigations, for instance, do not include follow-up phases to establish how effectively intervention-induced modifications persist over time or transfer to situations beyond the intervention (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). This is a severe flaw since, provided its complex nature, motivation should change over time and be sensitive to external factors. Initiatives and interventions can impact social cognitive functions, according to a large number of studies (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). At the same time, preservation and transfer are the subjects of far less research (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Even though there is no precise explanation of “long-term,” it would be useful to know if effects are still visible a few months after the intervention is completed.

Generally, the motivation phenomenon can be determined as the aspect of social cognitive theory since it correlates with behavior patterns and choices. The effect of motives and intentions on many types of mental functions such as memory, information acquisition and processing, argumentation, perception, and decision-making is referred to as motivated or directed cognition. Self-evaluation, human perception, preconceptions, influence, and communication are all affected by several of these mechanisms.


To summarize, the first article that was initially selected for the literature review work is named “How mouse-tracking can advance social cognitive theory.” The authors of this work assess current social cognition research that uses mouse-tracking to investigate models and construct theories. The second article that was chosen for the literature review discussion work is named “Social cognitive theory and physical activity: Mechanisms of behavior change, critique, and legacy.” The purpose of this research is to determine the current state of knowledge in the field of physical activity. The third article that was selected for the literature review paper is called “Motivation and social cognitive theory,” which was written by the scholars Dale Schunk and Maria DiBenedetto. This article examines motivation through the viewpoint of social cognition theory and the methodologies connected to it.


Beauchamp, M. R., Crawford, K. L., & Jackson, B. (2019). Social cognitive theory and physical activity: Mechanisms of behavior change, critique, and legacy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 110-117. Web.

Schunk, D. H., & DiBenedetto, M. K. (2020). Motivation and social cognitive theory. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 60, 101832. Web.

Stillman, P. E., Shen, X., & Ferguson, M. J. (2018). How mouse-tracking can advance social cognitive theory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(6), 531-543. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "The Social Cognitive Approach: The Environment and Patterns of Thought." March 6, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "The Social Cognitive Approach: The Environment and Patterns of Thought." March 6, 2023.