Personality development can be described as the collection of a person’s behaviours, for example their thoughts, emotions and interactions with others. As such, researchers have often stressed the importance of social interactions and the environment on the development of personality. Bandura’s social-cognitive theory would describe the attainment of personality in terms of modelling, reinforcement and direct tuition.
Particular emphasis is placed on modelling, whereby a person identifies with a ‘model’ and imitates their behaviour (and hence their personality traits). This may explain why siblings may have similar personalities, as they will have shared a common environment for a large part of their early lives. Support for modelling as an influence on behaviour comes from Bandura’s ‘Bobo doll’ studies, which found that children imitated the behaviour of an adult acting aggressively towards a doll.
This demonstrates that reinforcement is not a necessary condition for personality development to take place, and is therefore an improvement on traditional learning theory. The process of modelling requires a number of cognitive factors to take place, but particularly important, according to Bandura, is motivation. This can take place by means of reinforcement or self-motivation, the latter having particular significance in personality development.
Self-motivation covers a variety of self-evaluative cognitive processes, such as self-response (rewarding or punishing oneself for carrying out a behaviour) and self-efficacy (the perception of capability to carry out a behaviour). This holds particular imnportance in personality development as personality is, according to social learning theory, learnt as is any other behaviour, and traits such as social skills may be obtained by, for example, watching one’s parents socialise.
If self-efficacy is low, the child may not imitate the behaviour, and as a result will have poor social skills as an adult. Feltz provides support for the importance of self-efficacy, finding that Russian athletes’ performance was improved when they saw videotapes of themselves that had been edited to make them seem better than they were. Further support is provided by Schunk, who found that American primary school children who were told that their peers had done well on a maths test proceeded to do better on it that those who were not told anything about their peers.