"Reinforcement Theory" addresses how a person (such as a supervisor) can control environmental consequences of others (such as an employee) to establish a desired set of behaviors on the part of the other. "Social Cognitive Theory," on the other hand, addresses how a person can self-control their own environmental consequences to establish a set of behaviors that they themselves desire to engage in. Thus, social learning theorists, unlike reinforcement theorists, assume that humans have the capacity for cognition which can be used to engage in managing the "stimuli" and "consequences" of their behavior and that, in turn, affects their own behavior over time. In addition these theorists assume that humans can volitionally control their behavior through managing "cognitions" that impact the execution of desired behaviors.
This material is meant to supplement the author's treatment of Social Cognitive Theory in the textbook. The authors do not present the theory in its entirety. The authors focus only on how people can engage in "consequence management." They ignore "stimulus management." Also, the authors underplay the central role of "cognition management" by only addressing how people "formulate goals" that aid self-control of their behavior. They fail to consider a number of other central cognitive processes which aid self-control of behavior such as: "formulating strategies for goal achievement," "mental rehearsal," "self-instruction," and "increasing thought control efficacy."
The material presented below in boldface was incorporated into an overhead that was at one time used in class to lecture on these issues. Instead of listening to lecture, the student is asked to read about these ideas. Basically, the information added to the outline below is what the instructor would otherwise verbally share with students in class.
The process of manipulating environmental cues that stimulate wanted or unwanted behaviors
Selective Stimulus Removal
Example: If a stimulus (a picture of your family) is distracting you from performing a task, remove the stimulus (put the picture in a drawer)
Example: If a stimulus (someone who is a particularly good role model) is needed to help you vicariously learn a particular skill, ensure that you are regularly exposed to this stimulus (role model).
The process of self-administering affirmative consequences (positive reinforcers) when learning goals are achieved, and aversive consequences (punishments) when learning goals are not achieved.
Self-Reinforcement Example: Treating yourself
to a nice meal at a restaurant after successfully learning to use a new
Self-Punishment Example: Giving away your tickets to a desirable sporting event after unsuccessfully learning to use a new software application.
The process of controlling thoughts that affect the quality of one's learning experience or the quality of one's performance of desired behaviors.
Formulation of "self contracts" with oneself to achieve specific and challenging learning or performance targets.
Formulating Strategies for Goal Achievement
Determining what one plans to do to achieve a goal and how one plans to organize and do it. This may involve planning how to generate systematic "feedback" on goal achievement so one can continuously assess one's progress relative to the goal and problem solve when goal achievement is stalled. Key in this process is your environment: how you select it, construct it, and exercise control over it...especially to enhance "self-efficacy" (e.g., intentionally using the strategy of "small wins" to enhance the feeling that one can accomplish a complex difficult task -- this is done by breaking a difficult goal down into subgoals, when a subgoal is achieved this increases one's self-efficacy that one can continue to achieve the other subgoals).
Mentally practicing the desired behaviors one tends to execute before one actually engages in those behaviors (e.g.,. mentally responding to the kinds of questions one might expect to be asked in a job interview).
Conscious self-instruction during the execution of desired behaviors (e.g., mentally instructing oneself during a job interview to slow down and relax if one begins to experience stress).
Increasing Thought Control Efficacy
Mental control of potential and actual intrusive perturbing thoughts, especially during execution of challenging desired behaviors (e.g., thoughts of failure during a job interview). A relevant quote from Albert Bandura, who developed social learning theory, is "...you cannot prevent the birds of worry and care from flying over your head; but, you can stop them from building a nest in your head."
Postscript: To be successful at self-controlling one's own behavior one needs to weave a powerful "web" of situational cues, cognitive supports, and external consequences.