Canadian-born Albert Bandura is one of the most influential psychologists of all time, and indeed, the most cited living psychologist. Currently the David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology / Emeritus at Stanford University (where he has taught since 1953), he is best known for his social cognitive theory (also known as social learning theory), which emphasizes people’s capacity to shape the course of their lives.
Born in 1925 in Mundare, in northern Alberta, Albert Bandura received a bachelor’s from the University of British Columbia in 1949 and a PhD from the University of Iowa in 1952. At Stanford University, he briefly served as chair of the Department of Psychology. In 1973, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association. During his term, he sought to increase that organization’s advocacy role with regard to legislation, social policy and other matters of public interest. From 1999 to 2000, he served as honorary president of the Canadian Psychological Association.
In his 1986 book, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, Dr. Bandura accords a special role to the power of social modeling in self-development, adaptation and change. With the revolutionary advances in communications technology, he is studying how attitudes, values and styles of behavior are now being modeled worldwide.
Dr. Bandura has also explored the question of individuals’ agency over their own lives, as opposed to being shaped by circumstances. His 1997 work Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control articulates his view that people’s beliefs in their efficacy to effect change in their lives by individual and collective action is the foundation of human aspiration and achievement. His work has been highly influential in the areas of education, health, clinical practice, organizational behavior and social change.
Albert Bandura has received numerous honours, including 20 honorary doctorates, as well as the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association and the Grawemeyer Award in Psychology. His work continues in a forthcoming book on the prevalence of moral disengagement at both the individual and social system levels. Now an octogenarian, he notes that it is not the miles traveled but the tread remaining that is important. He believes that “I still have too much tread left to gear down or to conclude this engaging Odyssey.”