Socio-cognitive Theories of Motivation

Social Cognitive Theory
Goal Theory

Social Cognitive Theory

The Social Cognitive Theory purports that an individual’s learning is directly related to what an individual observes and subsequently learns by imitating the actions of another while being influenced by their own thoughts and the environment in which they are learning.

The theory was expanded by Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura from 1962 until the present.The learner does not expect actual rewards or punishments but anticipates similar outcomes to the behaviour he/she imitated. These expected outcomes are primarily influenced by the environment in which the observer is raised.

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To be effective as an instructor, the instructor should be able to model effective habits, objectives, and strategies for dealing with a variety of situations. In addition, effective instructors will also build the self-efficacy levels by recognizing the accomplishments of each learner.

Self-efficacy relates to a person’s perception of their ability to perform appropriately or reach a goal. The stronger the perceived self-efficacy, the higher the goals learners set for themselves, the more they expect their efforts to produce desired outcomes, and the more they view obstacles and impediments to change as surmountable.


According to Jones (1989) “the fact that behavior varies from situation to situation may not necessarily mean that behavior is controlled by situations but rather that the person is construing the situations differently and thus the same set of stimuli may provoke different responses from different people or from the same person at different times.”

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Goal Theory


Dr. Edwin Locke pioneered the research on goal setting and motivation in the late 1960s. Dr. Locke’s research proved there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and a person’s performance of a task. The more specific and difficult the goal, the better the performance as opposed to vague or easy goals.

In 1990, Locke and Dr. Gary Latham, published their work, “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance.” Their combined work reinforced the need to set a specific and difficult goal and outlined five principles of goal setting.

Five Principles of Goal Setting

To motivate, goals must have:
1. Clarity – measurable and unambiguous with defined completion date/time.
2. Challenge – the more challenging the goal, the more the learner is typically motivated.
3. Commitment – goals must be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective. Learners need to "buy into” the goal.
4. Feedback – provides opportunities to clarify expectations, adjust goal difficulty, and gain recognition. It’s important to provide feedback so learners know how they’re doing.
5. Task complexity – make sure the goal is attainable. If it’s too overwhelming, the learner will be less motivated.

SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound

The goal-setting theory is generally accepted as among the most valid and useful motivation theories in industrial and organizational psychology, human resource management, and organizational behaviour.

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Davis, Alanah (2006).Theories Used in IS Research – Social Cognitive Theory. York University. Retrieved February 4, 2011 from

Mind Tools retrieved on February 5, 2011 from

Social Cognitive Theory. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) Retrieved February 3, 2011 from, The Free Encyclopedia, Social cognitive theory. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from

Cartoon: Moore, M. (2005). Special, funny, motivational cartoon. Retrieved February, 20, 2011, from

Diagram for Goal Theory: Redmond, B.F. and Wager, A.S. WikiSpaces: PSYCH 484: Work Attitudes and Job Motivation. 6. Goal Setting Theory. PennState Retrieved on February 3, 2011 from

Cycles for Self-efficacy: Weinstein, C.E., Woodruff, A.L., & Alwalt, C. (2001). Self-efficacy understandings. In Motivation. Becoming a strategic learner: LASSI instructional modules. Clearwater, FL: H&H Publishing Company, Inc. Retrieved February 9, 2011 from