Cognitive Learning Theory | SCT & CBT of Cognitive Learning

Cognitive Learning Theory | SCT & CBT of Cognitive Learning

Cognitive Learning Theory is a broad theory that explains how extrinsic or intrinsic factors influence humans learning through differing mental processes such as thinking, analysis, reasoning, understanding, and perception. Cognitive Learning theory can be divided into two parts: the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) and the Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT).

Cognitive learning refers to the mental process of acquiring knowledge, understanding, and skills through thinking, analysis, experience, perception, attention, behavior, and the senses.

Learning doesn’t mean remembering information; learning is a process of acquiring information through analysis, understanding, perception, and observation. Before beginning the cognitive learning theory, here is an example of how people respond based on cognitive learning and efficiency of cognitive skills.


Person A: Mr. X is a good president.

Here are the responses of five people in the speech of person A.

Person B: No, he is bad.

Person C: Yes, he is good.

Person D: How can you say that he is good? He has not fulfilled promises, he can’t be a good president etc. etc.

Person E: Yes, he is good, he has done a lot, he has done this, done that etc. etc.

Person F: On what criteria or condition you are saying that Mr. X is a good president?

Generally, goodness or badness is based on conditions, humans can be good or bad based on certain characteristics; here Person F has the efficient cognitive skills, as cognitive skills refer to the understanding based on analysis, person F wants to analyze before understanding or commenting on the characteristics of president Mr. X.

So, the question is why all the five people had different responses. Our words are the reflection of our own cognitive maps and the map is the manifestation of our own perception, the capability of deductive reasoning, level of learning, cognitive skills, thoughts, repeated practice, and insight.

Cognitive learning theory explains how the cognitive maps are created based on extrinsic or intrinsic factors. 

For this reason, cognitive learning theory has been divided into two specific theories,

What is the Social Cognitive Theory?

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) started as Social Learning Theory (SLT) by Albert Bandura in the 1960s, further SLT was developed into SCT in 1986 and propounded that learning occurs in a social context with dynamic and reciprocal interaction based on following three attributes,

  • Behavior
  • Environment
  • Personal

As the name suggests, the theory explains how human learn through interaction with the society. The behavior of a person depends upon intrinsic cognitive-behavioral processes of parents or other people we live with. The behavior of others can impact the perception, way of thinking, and method of acquiring knowledge.

While interacting with the environment, the extrinsic characteristics such as human beliefs, climate, ideas, and social thoughts are learned subconsciously or consciously.

Lastly, personal intrinsic characteristics or identity can impact the social cognitive learning; a person can accept or reject social beliefs, thoughts or ideas based on his or her personal attributes. For example, person A wears what he feels comfortable, what he feels right; on the other hand person B may wear T-shirt like celebrity X, cut his hair like celebrity Y, B does what the society follows & trending throughout the society; the reason is person B accepted social characteristics based on his personal thoughts or beliefs.

SCT includes several basic constructs for learning through dynamic and reciprocal interaction with society, here are the lists of six construct children, adolescent or adult adapt to learn,

  1. Reciprocal Determinism ­– This refers to the dynamic and reciprocal interaction of person, environment, and behavior.
  2. Observational Learning – People can observe and witness behaviors conducted by others and then reproduce those through repeated actions.
  3. Reinforcement – This refers to the self-initiated or environment dependent response towards other person’s behavior; a person may choose to continue or discontinue the behavior by either self-initiation or environmental conditions.
  4. Expectation – This refers to anticipated consequences of a person’s behavior; for example, due to the social psychological environment, most of the people define expectation of success as getting certificates, getting rewards, getting a job, or getting married to someone.
  5. Behavioral Capability ­– People learn through the consequence of their behavior, behavioral capability means the ability to perform through essential knowledge, skills, experience, and insight.
  6. Self-efficacy – This construct had been added when SLT was posited to SCT. This refers to a level of a person’s confidence in own ability to successfully perform a behavior or actions. Self-efficacy is based on individual planned behavior, specific capabilities, and other environmental factors.

What is the Cognitive Behavioral Theory?

This theory is developed by Aaron Beck. Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) describes the role of cognitive skills in determining and predicting the behavioral pattern of individuals. Individuals tend to form self-concept that is reflected in the behavior of an individual. The behavior can be positive or negative depending upon the metal diet the person has provided.

According to Beck, “If beliefs do not change, there is no improvement. If beliefs change, symptoms change. Beliefs function as little operational units.” Which means that our behaviors, actions and self-identity reflection of our thoughts and beliefs.


The mental diet is the information, knowledge, or skills we acquire from birth, mental diet generates perception and perception transform into thoughts or beliefs. As Gautama Buddha said, “We are what we think.” The thoughts or beliefs transform into our behavior or action subconsciously or consciously.

On the basis of the Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT), a therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was conceived to effectively treat varieties of mental disorder. The psychiatric disorder like depression, anxiety, personality disorder etc. can be dealt with this therapy.

As the Cognitive Learning theory explains that human learns through the social behavior and the personal Cognitive behavior, the best way to develop cognitive skills for effective behavior or action is to analyze the data when it enters our conscious mind intrinsically or extrinsically. .

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