Bandura | Applied Social Psychology (ASP) (2023)


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Sep 17

Acrophobia Be Damned!

Over the past several years I have had the unpleasant experience of acrophobia (fear of heights). My first experience occurred during a much-anticipated trip to Italy. I was walking up the circular steps of the Duomo Climb to the Top of Florence’s Duomo to the cupola when all the sudden an intense fear overcame me. My excitement in viewing the frescoes and Florence were overcome with a sense of doom and panic. This intense fear filled me with angst, as the only way to exit was to walk around the entire circular cupola to reach the exit on the other side. The large crowds propelled me forward as I held onto the wall for support. Eventually, I did make it to the other side and began the quick descent down the stairs. It has been two years since this episode and I have experienced quite a few similar incidents that has altered my lifestyle. However, recently I learned of a possible cure for my acrophobia through a technique called observational learning.

Observational learning is a concept Bandura (1986) observed from his Social Cognitive Theory of learning. This theory believes learning is achieved through observations and processes to stimuli and responses (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). More specifically, Bandura’s (1986) observational technique focusses on four processes that coincide with learning: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention is the ability to learn the observed behavior as its occurring. Retention is the ability to remember the learned behavior that you witnessed. Problems with attention and retention have been demonstrated to take a longer time to cure phobias (Yarwood, 2017). Reproduction is being able to perform the learned behavior. However, one must have the motivation required to engage in the learned behavior. To be cured of this phobia, I will have to focus on all four of these processes and perform the same behaviors exhibited by someone modeling the desired behaviors. However, before I can perform these behaviors I need to have self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the belief that one has the confidence to exhibit control over a desired behavior (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Obviously, I lack self-efficacy because I am extremely fearful of heights and do not have to skill set to overcome this phobia. My hope is that with the observational technique, I will overcome this fear and once again be able to explore all the wonderful landscapes of my environment.

Unbeknownst to my family members, I tried to incorporate this technique while on a hike near an overlook. I watched as my family members climbed rocks on an overlook and it proved to be a challenging task. My children and husband have no fears of heights and I tried to just watch as they sat on the rocks of the overlook and marveled at the canyon down below. This proved ineffective because my attention was not focusing on their behaviors. I would close or cover my eyes as I watched them get closer and closer to the edge of the canyon. Obviously, this exercise proved to be a challenging task and I will be seeking professional help in the hopes of curing my acrophobia.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., and Coutts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. (2ed). Washington D.C., Sage Publications.

Yarwood, M. (n.d.). Psych 424 Module Lesson 5: Health and Clinical/Counseling – Part 2. PSU World Campus. Retrieved from

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Oct 14

It’s All Fun and Games

My nephew Jasen is 12 years old and is in 7th grade. He loves (some would say is obsessed with) video games. He lives with his grandparents and they monitor his “electronic time” very closely for precisely this reason. Recently, they caught him playing “Assassin’s Creed.” Since this video game had not been pre approved by them, he was “grounded.” His response to the punishment was, “that’s not fair, it’s only a game.” Is that true? Do they have a reason to be worried? Who is right? Applied social psychology may help provide an answer.

It is proven that violent media increases aggressive behavior (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 140). How likely is it that Assassin’s Creed will help my nephew learn to be violent? I will use Bandura’s social cognitive theory as a measuring stick. According to Bandura’s theory there are four processes that need to happen before this can occur: attention, representation, behavioral production, and motivation (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 142). The more “Assassin’s Creed” helps to facilitate these processes, the more likely it is to teach my nephew Jasen to be violent. We will begin by taking a closer look at each process and then I will see how this video game impacts each before I render a final judgment.

So, the first process that must occur for vicarious learning is attention. Mostly, this has to do with how salient and attractive the behavior is (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 142). The second process is the representational process. This involves mentally rehearsing the behavior. The third process is behavioral production. This is learning how to take the observed behavior and apply it to related but novel behaviors. The last process that must occur is a motivational process. How bad does a person want to imitate the behavior? This is influenced by whether the behavior is punished or rewarded. Rewarded behaviors are more likely to be imitated. It is also motivating if the behavior is seen as justified. Yet another factor that motivates one to imitate violence is whether it is realistic. The last thing I will mention is whether or not the perpetrator of the violence is liked.

Now that we have a better idea of how this theory works, how does Assassin’s Creed stack up? Lets look at the first process, attention. Being that Jasen is playing the game, in other words he needs to be an active participant; it is clearly very salient to him. It is not in the background while he is doing something else. Also, it is a very exciting and action packed game. Thus, it is easy to attract and keep his attention. So the game scores high on the first process needed to facilitate imitation.

The second process, if you recall, is a representational process. I know for a fact he remembers the game because I asked him about it after he got into trouble. He emphatically recounted the “mission” he had to complete. To go along with the story, he acted out several of the solutions he had figured out along the way. He would tiptoe around the living room and jump onto the couch while he stabbed the air to show me how he snuck up and killed a guard. He was clearly mentally rehearsing what he had seen. Overall the game scores high for the second process as well.

We then move on to the third process of behavioral production. This involves taking the observed behavior and applying it to novel situations. I actually did not think much of it at the time (this incident took place before he got in trouble) but there was something that could apply to this process. I was in another room when I heard Jasen yell boo and then I heard his grandpa give a fright. Jasen then walked out into the room I occupied and told me with a big grin how he had scared his grandpa half to death. He had hidden behind the door and waited for his grandfather to pass. As his grandpa did this, Jasen leapt from his hiding spot and screamed at his bewildered grandpa. This sneaking around and pouncing is eerily familiar to the tactics used in the game. Now I am not sure how long Jasen had been playing the game. I am also not sure if this episode was a result of having watched the game. It would not surprise me in the least if both were true however. So overall the evidence for the third process is not as strong as I would have liked but it is possible.

The last process we will examine is motivational. In the game the player is rewarded for successful assassinations by receiving new weapons and points. The next question is whether or not the violence is justified. In the game, the main character Desmond Miles is trying to stop an organization called Abstergo (who also kidnapped Desmond) from taking over the world. So clearly, Desmond is supposed to be justified in his actions. The violence is also extremely realistic as you can see from the screen shots above and at the top of the page. I would also say that Jasen definitely liked and identified with Desmond the assassin. He “is” Desmond when he plays the game. Also Desmond is a shadowy, rugged individual that seems to be an ideal in our culture.

Putting this all together, Jasen’s grandparents are wise to not let him play such a game. There is strong evidence that he would try to imitate this behavior. There is strong evidence for almost every part in Bandura’s theory. I would be especially worried because of his burgeoning cognitive abilities. A few years ago, he was not able to think in abstract terms and now he is. I feel like these new abilities make him very impressionable. Playing a game like that, at the age he is, does not seem like a good idea. Applied social psychology and the chapter on media can help explain why.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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