Social Cognitive Theory: Concept and Applications

The social cognitive theory used in education and communication holds that proportions of an individual’s knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences (Bandura, 1999). This theory was advanced by Albert Bandura as a continuation of his social learning theory. The social cognitive theory refers to ‘Emphasizes the role of cognitive processes in learning and in the regulation of people’s behavior.’ (Johns & Saks, 2017, p.62) The theory states that personal factors and environmental factors act together to influence the behavior of people.

This theory views people as active agents who both influence and are influenced by their environment (Johns & Saks, 2017).

The components of social cognitive theory involve self-observation (observing oneself can inform and motivate), self-evaluation (comparing one’s current performance with a desired performance and goal), self reaction (reaction to one’s performance to revaluate the goals), and self-efficacy (belief in goal completion motivating oneself) (Johns & Saks, 2017). A major component of this theory is observational learning. The process of learning desirable and undesirable behaviors by observing others then reproducing learned behaviors in order to maximize rewards. For example, an observer learning to dance at a party.

The movie 12 Angry Men (1957) involves a series of events that signify social cognitive theory. Initially, when the twelve jurors decide to publicly vote on whether the boy is guilty or not, the decision of many jurors like Juror #2 and Juror #9 is based on the behavior of the majority. These jurors, even though hesitant, adapt to the behavior of the majority due to the fear of appearing deviant.

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Similarly, as the movie progresses, the eighth juror is successfully able to influence all remaining 11 jurors to vote ‘not guilty’. The other jurors learn and adapt their actions accordingly as the eighth jurors present more evidence.

Social Identity Theory

Social identity theory states that people form perceptions of themselves based on several characteristics and associate themselves with groups (Johns & Saks, 2017). People tend to classify themselves with similar people and form in and out-groups. The external environmental stimuli through hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, or tasting about something/someone leads to perceptual selections and perceptual construction and finally its interpretation (Johns & Saks, 2017).

The jurors formed in and out groups by relating themselves to other jurors in the room. For instance, those who believe the boy is guilty and those who do not. Similarly, many perceived and classified Juror #3, the shy bank clerk, and Juror #9, the old man, as weak and inefficient.


Perception is the process of interpreting the messages of our senses to provide order and meaning to the environment (Johns & Saks, 2017). It helps us to sort out and organize the complex and varied input received by our senses of sight, smell touch and taste (Jogns & Saks, 2016). Some of the important perception that influences organisational behaviour are the perceptions that organisational members have of each other.

In the movie, perceptual errors such as stereotyping, self-fulfilling prophecy, recency effect, halo effect and projection were displayed by the jurors.

Stereotype – Juror #10 has a belief that teenagers growing up in slum tends to be criminals which is basically a false generalization. The accused is stereotyped since he grew up in a slum.

Projection – Juror #3 relate the case to his failing relationship with his son. This creates an effect wherein he sees the image of his son in the accused teenager. He tries to force his own conscious image into the accused and sees him guilty.

Halo effect- Juror #3 thinks that since he is an influential person (self established business owner), he can domain, he knows better because of his higher status.

Self-fulfilling prophecy- Juror #2 is timid in nature and hence his opinion is not heard and ignored.

Juror #8 is free of bias; he believes in justice for all. He says,’ nothing is ever that sure…[I]t doesn’t matter what kind of person he is…. [W]e owe him a few words is all’ (12 Angry Men, 1957). He can see past the stereotypes attached to the defendant.


Attribution comes from the word attribute which means, to cause or to ‘lead into’. For example, we can say, cold weather attributes to low class turn up. Attribution can either be external or internal. Internal attribution, also known as dispositional, explains that, some decisions are made due to personal factors. For instance, feelings, abilities, individual’s history (Johns & Saks, 2017). External/situational attributions claims that, individual’s behavior depends on situation of the moment.

In the movie 12 Angry Men, the jurors supported their vote basing their argument on different attributes. For instance, at one point, the boy was claimed to be brought up in the slums. There is a stereotype that kids raised in slums acquire a bad way of life and killing could be possible. In that reason, Juror #10 argued that the accused could have possibly killed his father. This is an internal attribute.

Juror #8, the leader of the minority, used an external attribution. He claims that throughout his life, the boy had gone through hardship including being slapped and unworthy treats (12 Angry Men, 1957). Therefore, the boy was already used to hard life, and would not kill his father. He claimed that the boy was not guilty.


Distributive justice is when people receive the same outcomes that they believe they deserve. It is concerned about matching one’s ratio of outcomes and inputs with those of others (Johns & Saks, 2017). When an individual’s output-input ratio doesn’t match with his/her co-worker, they may pensive it as unfair. Procedural justice is concerned with the reasonableness of the procedure used to determine the outcome while interactional justice is concerned with the manner in which the outcome and procedure are communicated (Johns & Saks, 2017). According to procedural justice philosophy, individuals believe the action to be fair when they are granted a voice and it is valued (Thibaut & Walker, 1975). According to the philosophy of interactional justice, the context is very important so using fair procedure and fairly communicating them is important. Individuals will perceive an action fair when people are treated with respect and dignity and the outcome is explained and communicated clearly with proper explanation.

In the movie, the fairness of the jury can be interpreted in multiple ways. The philosophy of procedural justice can be applied in this case. The twelve members of the jury have their own voice and everyone’s voice is respected as the decision has to be unanimous. Juror #8 is given the opportunity to explain and convince the others why he believes the boy might be innocent. The jury involved members from different walks of life such as Juror #5 who grew up in a slum just like the boy on trial. However, it important to mention that the jury did not include any women, (wo)men of color.


In 1960’s, Edwin Locke introduced a goal-setting theory of motivation to the world of business. This theory of motivation fundamentally leans towards task performance. It states that setting up an ambition to achieve and planning the route to clip it, provides you with the direction and helps to measure your potential (Johns & Saks, 2017).

In the movie, the jurors had a shared common goal; to decide whether the boy on trial was guilty or not. It was a SMARTER goal. The jurors had a specific goal. It was measurable since it could be evaluated based on evidence. It was achievable since they had all the necessary resources at their disposal. It was relevant and timebound as well. The jurors also evaluated their progress by calling for votes frequently and readjusted their approach to achieve the goal by including more information and questioning the quality of witness. This was leading to an effective performance since they were able to achieve the goal.

In the beginning, even though everyone had a common goal, each of the members had their own different goals too. While Juror #8 wanted to consider the possibility that the boy may not be guilty irrespective of the time it took for the discussion, some members like Juror #7, who was more concerned about his Yankees game, wanted quick deliberation.

The SMART goal became a SMARTER goal when the jurors considered the possibilities of the alternative as suggested by Juror #8. Their performance was evaluated, and corrections made to ensure that they examine the available evidences thoroughly. All the jurors who voted the boy was guilty eventually changed their votes as they re-evaluated the evidences and declared that the boy was not guilty.


The stage model of group development states that a group goes through different stages during group development; forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning (Johns & Saks, 2017). The punctuated equilibrium model states that a group, usually depended on the leader on the initial stage, makes their plans and schedule tasks first but later when they realize the inadequacy of the plan as the deadline approaches, they regroup and re-plan to achieve their goals (Okhuysen & Waller, 2002).

We believe it is the stage model is a better fit to analyze the group development of the jury. The jurors went through different stages of group development; forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. When the group entered the room, they went through the forming stage. Each of them got to know about each other and created in and out groups. The foreman took the leadership and got the team together and establish the group’s objective. The group went entered and stayed in the storming stage when Juror #8 expressed his difference in vote. Most of the story takes place during the storming stage where members clash, question each other’s opinion, and even question the leadership. During the norming stage, the group understands and appreciates other’s strengths and weaknesses. Later, the group complete their objective and is adjourned.

A majority of the group wanted to arrive at their decision and thus concluded that the explicit actions were true leading to their decision that the boy was guilty. However, the group became incohesive when Juror #8 introduced his opposing view. The jury went from cohesive to incohesive and eventually cohesive; from 11 v. 1 to group ‘guilty’ v. group ‘not guilty’ to 1 v. 11 and eventually not guilty.


The jurors have committed a course of action; to decide if the boy was guilty or not. The 12 jurors in the movie have their own views on the story and each try to plant some influence over the other. To be precise, three characters depict strong leadership qualities; Juror #1, Juror #3 and juror #8. It is well structured because the goal is clear, and the foreman initiates a structure on how to proceed and how to vote. The foreman (Juror #1) voluntarily takes up the leadership position to lead the whole team to reach a verdict while Juror #3 leads the ‘guilty’ argument and Juror #8, focused on the behavioral approach, tries to convince everyone about the possibility that the may be innocent. The appointed leader was ineffective and is overshadowed by Juror #8 and Juror #3. He tries to clear the path for the team but fails since he is unable to bring up the quality of witness and evidence available which Juror #8 does.

Trait theory of leadership states leadership depends on the personal qualities of the leader such as intelligence, confidence, energy, drive, and motivation while behavioral theory assumes that leaders can be made (Johns & Saks, 2017). Juror #8 displays qualities like self motivation, intelligence, and energy to prove his point even while all other 11 jurors opposed his view. He is a transformational leader. He picks outs out instances such as the killer using an identical knife and the quality of the statement of witnesses to display his intelligence and drive to prove the probability that the boy may be innocent. Similarly, Juror #3 leads the ‘team guilty’, even though biased, playing on his opinionated, intolerant, forceful, and loud-mouthed personality.

Decision Making

The jury was rationally bound due to limited time, limited information, and limited scope by an individual. They do a search for relevant information by talking to each other and discussing the possibilities. For instance, the time the old man would have taken to walk. Juror #8 suggests an alternative solution and the jurors evaluate the alternative solution. Later, they recycle and implement the alternative solution as it seems plausible with the given information.

They face a lot of cognitive bias. Juror #8 wanted justice while Juror #7 wanted to go to the Yankees game. Juror #12 works in advertising and tends to be easily swayed by opinions. Juror #9 is the eldest man in the group and is able to relate personal life and cravings for attention that comes with the age to determine the quality of the witness. Juror #5, like the boy on trial, grew up there in the slum and is able to clear the bias everyone else has about people coming from slums.

The primary disadvantage faced by the jury is that they were following decision-based evidence-making instead of an evidence-based decision-making approach. Initially, most of the jury decided that the boy was guilty, and they were trying to build up evidence to prove Juror #8 that he is wrong. For instance, Juror #12 says that it is up to them to prove that Juror #8 is wrong.

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Social Cognitive Theory: Concept and Applications. (2020, Nov 22). Retrieved from

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