Social learning theory can change the world

Earlier this year Professor Albert Bandura visited London and presented a fascinating talk on the application of social learning theory (SLT – now called social cognitive theory). An edited version of this talk is in the June edition of The Psychologist (which is free online here). The research he discussed provides great support for SLT as well as demonstrating its application to the real world.The talk focused on how SLT is being used to tackle urgent global problems. For example, in Tanzania the current population is 36 million. This is predicted to soar to 60 million in 25 years. Working with the Population Media Center, Bandura devised a radio drama which would raise people’s belief in their efficacy to control family size. Before many people believed that such control was the will of their deity.The programme has resulted in much wider use of birth control methods.Another project aimed to increase literacy in Mexico. A popular TV star played the role of a literate person in a TV drama programme, acting as a role model including modelling how to deal with self-doubts and setbacks. The day after the TV programme was aired 25,000 enrolled in self-study programmes! Enrolment was 90,000 in the year before the TV programme and about one million in the year of the TV programme.The key feature in this work is the interaction between psychological theory and practice. Bandura is able to extend what the programme makers might intuitively do by drawing on his theoretical insights – using concepts such as modlling and efficacy,