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05.12.2013
Social Cognitive Theory stemmed out of work in the area of social learning theory proposed by N.E. The theorists most commonly associated with social cognitive theory are Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel.
In this paper, we will examine the idea of imitating Christ, or of imitating Paul imitating Christ through the lens of observational learning as developed by Albert Bandura, and the complications that are introduced into the process by the fact that the human Jesus is no longer present to Paul’s audience, and that Paul himself is no longer present to contemporary readers. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us (Greek) we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.
It is in the Corinthian letters that we find what is apparently Paul’s most bold challenge to imitate him. At first glance, Paul’s claim to be a model for the church could be construed as a kind of egocentrism and inflation. A story in the Hasidic Jewish tradition tells of a rabbi who would make an annual pilgrimage to see the Maggid of Mezrich.
Clearly, Paul is not calling upon his readers to copy either him or Jesus slavishly, nor to engage in artistic renderings of reality. MimA“sis, as a process of education, is neither the Skinnerian education of the late 20th century nor the Benthamite ideal of the 19th century.
Many psychologists were aware that there were simply too many aspects of actual learning that the stimulus-response method failed to explain.
Several phases of this process can be identified, each with its own set of factors that will shape the ultimate behavior.
In order to learn from observation, it is necessary first that the model must attract the individual’s attention.
Most of the cognitive processes that regulate behavior are primarily conceptual rather than imaginal. The third dimension of learning involves the question of whether the learner can, in fact, reproduce the behavior that has been observed.
Classic behavioralism says that the environment is the key determinant of behavior, as the organism responds to stimuli from the world around.
Social valuation also plays a significant role in the motivational phase of observational learning.
If behavior were only a matter of external stimuli and reinforcement, then individuals’ behavior would change drastically every time there was a significant change in the environment. Bandura’s theory is among those described by Gerd Theissen in his groundbreaking work Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology (Theissen, 1987). Paul Ricoeur reminds us that something very significant happens when discourse moves from conversation to text. Furthermore, though Paul would probably not phrase it this way, there is a glimmering in the Corinthian correspondence that he understands how he can remain a symbolic model even when not present physically with the community. Bandura’s theory of observational learning may not help us discern any more clearly the model that Paul holds up before the community both in himself and in his imitation of Christ, but it may well help us to understand how subsequent generations have developed what they consider to be appropriate images of Paul and Jesus that should serve as models for their own lives and behavior. In fact, experience has shown that an individual’s image of Jesus is closely intertwined with his or her own personality.
The community in which the individual lives also plays a significant role in shaping the model of Jesus.
Anticipated rewards or punishments, positive or negative reinforcements, have much to do with cultural values. The people of Raymond, the fictional setting for In His Steps, acknowledge some difficulty in discerning the model of what Jesus would do in any situation. Although verbal symbols embody a major share of knowledge acquired by modeling, it is often difficult to separate representation modes.
Stephen Prothero has given us a fascinating study of how depictions of Jesus have changed throughout the history of America, and how those changes reflect changes within the cultural and political lives of Christians.
Bandura emphasizes the importance of production processes and of perceived self-efficacy in observational learning.
The symbolic model of Jesus is shaped by significant, strong factors in individual personalities and community dynamics. Assumption: an individual doesn't learn in issolation, but as an integrated part of a physical space.
Bandura defines self-efficacy as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” (Bandura, 1995, p. People’s self-efficacy beliefs extend to all aspects of their lives – career choice, dating behavior, and emotional regulation. Classroom Strategy: Teachers frequently ask students to assess something done by their peers (reviewing an oral presentation to the class, editing a paper or report, etc).
Classroom Strategy: Begin by asking your students to imagine themselves doing something they do well. If you want more information about self-efficacy beliefs and how to apply them, you’ll find a wealth of information here. Classroom examples provided by educational consultant and Funderstanding contributor, Bob Sullo.
Emily is now a psychotherapist and freelance writer after a 25-year career in marketing communications. This entry was posted in Blog, Educators, Kids, Social Learning Theory and tagged Albert Bandura, social learning theory.
Hey there – looking at the four sources that you have for Self-Efficacy, the first two are the same.


Funderstanding is a resource for teachers, parents, and students to stay up to date on education-related issues.
Funderstanding is also an ebook publishing partner company, focused on education-related content, which provides complete epublishing services as well as an expertise in ebook marketing and author branding.
But it should be noted that in each case, he takes care to say that he himself is not the model to be emulated; it is when he seeks to imitate Christ that he becomes a worthy example for the community.
It is the second form of mimA“sis, the benefit of emulating another, that Paul has in mind. Skinner’s strict behaviorist system does not allow for the kind of mimA“sis that Paul is calling for. Albert Bandura noted that observational learning went beyond merely imitating what one sees. These phases are Attentional Processes, Retention Processes, Production Processes, and Motivational Processes. We constantly filter the information that comes to us from the world around through our senses, and any number of possible models of behavior fail to catch our attention at all. Because of the extraordinary flexibility of verbal symbols, the intricacies and complexities of behavior can be conveniently captured in words. Even though we might be able to watch hour upon hour of Lance Armstrong’s training and bicycle riding and understand every detail of his performance, it does not by any means follow that we can then go out and win the Tour de France. Other psychological theories emphasize the innate characteristics of the individual, or assert free choice in one’s actions. Thus, for example, with regard to attentional processes, the strength of the model itself depends on its visibility, its similarity to the individual, its power, and its attractiveness.
Since motivation depends in part on the learner’s expectation that imitating a given model will have positive results for him- or herself, the way in which a given behavior is valued within their social environment may well lead to choosing one exemplar over another, or in devoting more energy to seeking to imitate a highly valued model. Clearly, this is not so, and thus Bandura affirms that behavior is primarily self-regulating.
This is the individual’s perception of his or her ability to carry out a specific behavior. It was only for this reason that he was able to instruct them to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. Here he observes, rightly, that Paul is using Moses as a symbolic model, one that has been shaped by Jewish religious experience. He shaped himself as a continually evolving offering-in-progress to his God and the letters are the record of that performance. The Gnostics may well have recognized what orthodox Christians tend to overlooka€“ that the symbolic model of Jesus is not fixed, but is shaped by each person who encounters it. Since the strength of the model is enhanced by its similarity to the individual, the reverse ought to be true: because the model is strong, it must be similar. It is a major constituent of the environment which both shapes and interacts with the individual. Acceptance by the community is usually a strong motivator, and so the image of Jesus which is held up by the community at large is quite likely to be noticed not only for its own power and attractiveness, but for the social affirmation that attends one who seeks to imitate that model.
The President of the local college asks, "And yet what one church member thinks Jesus would do, another refuses to accept as His probable course of action. Maxwell, integrity of the model of Jesus’ behavior will be preserved by the Holy Spirit.
His or her actual responses can be observed and imitated, either cognitively or actually.
Two millennia of artistic response and interaction with the Jesus of the Bible have provided a store of imaginal symbols that accompany and interact with the verbal symbols. Bandura’s model of observational learning helps us to understand and account for many aspects of how the desire to imitate Christ has unfolded. Jesus already has the qualities of a strong, attractive, and valued model, and so it is not surprising that he would also be viewed as similar to the individual, reflecting the values and priorities of the social setting in which the individual seeks affirmation, support, and a sense of competency. Despite all efforts to domesticate him and enlist him on our side, again and again Jesus proves capable of standing against prevailing culture, and inspiring individuals to act differently than their own experiences or community ethos might demand. A child’s ideas about what she’s good at influences her choice of studies and ultimately career. The person’s own mastery experiences.  How a person interprets the results of her previous performance is the most influential source of self-efficacy beliefs. The best way to strengthen self-efficacy is to have students identify those things they did well on assigned tasks. By modeling self-evaluation, teachers demonstrate a process designed to promote self-efficacy. The company focuses on innovative and progressive approaches to inspire learning in classrooms as well as homes. In tribal cultures, especially non-literate cultures, children learn almost exclusively through imitation of adults.
But how is this imitation to be done, when we no longer have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to see the rabbia€“ be it Rabbi Paul or Rabbi Jesus? In the mimA“sis of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the imitator, by acting as Paul does, gains cognizance of the meaning of his or her actions. Bandura argued that this information can be stored in two waysa€“ imaginally and verbally. We might learn cognitively how to do something, but still be far from able to carry it out.


This is the role of reinforcement in Bandura’s systema€“ a learner must have the expectation that they will receive some positive reinforcement for imitating the modeled behavior. At the same time, the individual will tend to notice or disregard a given model because of previous experience, perceptual acuity, or how it is valued (reinforced) in the social group or culture. In observing models of behavior, we internalize performance standards and then employ these standards in evaluating our own actions. One can be reasonably certain that Paul was not thinking of the historical Jesus when he wrote these words. We are justified in treating the record of Saul’s life as the first recorded instance of a life given over to the Imitation of Christ. He invites them to take a few moments to think about how they imagine the man Jesusa€“ what kind of person he was, how he acted, what his personality was like.
It provides a framework for evaluating the relative importance of potential models and a set of expectations about rewards and punishments that will likely be associated with following a given model. In its own way, the contemporary WWJD movement reflects the current youth culture, replete with consumer merchandise (wristbands, bumper stickers, cards), testimonies about how the wristbands have led to opportunities for witnessing about Christ, and a nearly iconic presence in the culture of both conservative evangelicals and social liberals (“What Would Jesus Drive? It is perhaps ironic that In His Steps, a book rooted in the Social Gospel and written by a liberal Congregational minister at the end of the 19th century, should become the source of the WWJD?
However, as we have seen, the dynamic relationships of the individual, the environment, and specific behavior are often shaped by other factors intrinsic to the interplay.
But in the fluid world of verbal and literary symbols, the model that is presented is often as much (or even more) a creation of the community as it is a result of direct observation.
Clearly, the most salient aspects of Jesus’ life as presented in the Gospels are beyond human capacitya€“ no one suggests that the imitation of Christ involves being crucified for the sins of the world, working miracles, or identifying with the Father are things that can be imitated. If one believes that the spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit is present in their lives to enable them to do what God intends them to do, that belief serves to strengthen the sense of self-efficacy.
Rather, the more profound question is about what values we can learn from Jesus’ way of living that may touch on our own.
If a person doesn’t believe her efforts will result in the outcome she wants, she will have a lot of trouble starting, applying effort, or persevering in any activity – whether it’s studying for an exam, engaging in a sport or asking someone out on a date. Negative appraisals weaken self-efficacy beliefs more than positive appraisals strengthen them.
A person will assess how confident she feels by interpreting her own emotional and physical state as she contemplates an action. Tell them that as they imagine taking on new challenges, they have the best chance of success if they can replicate the same positive physiological and emotional states. The actions should be deliberate and self-shaping in order to realize the goal of spiritual maturity.
Imaginal storage consists of actual images of past experiences that return to shape responses to current situations.
In classical behavioral theory, the reinforcement, whether positive or negative, had to be directly experienced, and thus directly shaped behavior. The standards may be related to actual past experiences of reward, such as receiving praise from significant persons, or they may be derived from vicarious observation of others. The flexibility of language comes to the fore, and structures of interpretation become more significant. But when it comes to a genuine, honest, enlightened following of Jesus' steps, I cannot believe there will be any confusion either in our own minds or in the judgment of others.
Communities and leaders may even manipulate the power of the Jesus model to sanction or evoke certain desired behaviors. If we accomplish what we intended to do, our self-evaluation will be a form of positive reinforcement; if we fall short, we evaluate ourselves negatively. Now, at the remove of two millennia, Paul himself has become every bit a symbolic figure as Moses or Jesus.
But the symbolic model does not have the same fixity that the person of Jesus might have, and so we might expect that individuals might, in fact, shape the symbolic model following their own expectations. When they have completed this exercise, he then asks them to go back and underline everything in the description that they consider to be true also of themselves. This form of internal reinforcement, Bandura believes, is more powerful than external rewards or punishments. The flesh and blood individual, of certain height, weight, and hair color (or lack of hair) is lost to us forever.
If Jesus is already respected, with high status and attractive power, why would he then not logically be similar to the individual? He notes that there is often a high level of correlation between the two, and that participants are often quite surprised to see the similarities. If Jesus' example is the example for the world to follow, it certainly must be feasible to follow it.
What remains is a symbolic construct, a trace of a personality, some sparse descriptions of a life and its actions, all mediated through the vehicle of texts.
After we have asked the Spirit to tell us what Jesus would do and have received an answer to it, we are to act regardless of the results to ourselves.



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