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Reciprocal Determinism

Updated: 2 May 2016

Graphic copyright © 1986 Pearson Education Inc

Graphic copyright © 1986 Pearson Education Inc

The model of Reciprocal Determinism was developed by Albert Bandura (1977). It considers how what we do and who we spend time with – our Behaviour – impacts upon and changes the life conditions in the Environment we experience and how we respond cognitively and emotionally – and possibly physiologically too – as a Person to the environmental feedback we then receive. Unlike the determinism of straight-forward Behaviourism, Bandura posits that we can influence the Environment as well as the Environment influencing us. Bandura (1999) terms the actor acting upon their environment personal agency.

If the environmental feedback is favourable, then that will have a reinforcing effect likely to lead to repetition of the behaviour. If the environmental feedback is unfavourable, then that may lead to changes in beliefs and attitudes and consequently behaviour, depending on just what sense we make of the feedback. The sense we make will clearly depend on what meta-programmes are being run by what vMEMES and what schemas are challenged.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

Bandura was the leading Social Learning theoretician of the mid-late 20th Century. While the concept of the Environment determining Behaviour is rooted in Behaviourism, Social Learning Theory built on Edward C Tolman’s (1932) position of there being a cognitive mediator between stimulus and response (which strict Behaviourists disregarded). (Bandura later retitled his version of Social Learning Theory ‘Social Cognitive Theory’ to emphasis the cognitive aspects – though the name change largely failed to catch on.)

One of the great contributions Bandura made to Psychology was his studies of observational modelling – notably the famous ‘Bo Bo Doll’ experimentsAlbert Bandura, Dorothea Ross & Sheila Ross, 1961; Albert Bandura & Richard Walters, 1963; Albert Bandura, 1965 – in which children were seen to model different types of adult behaviour, depending on the consequences for the adults.

Thus, Bandura established that we learn and sometimes modify our behaviour not only by what happens to us as a consequence of what we do – Operant Conditioning – but also by observing whether others are rewarded or punished for their behaviour – vicarious learning. In other words our environmental feedback takes in the environmental feedback that others are receiving.

Again, how we learn from the environmental feedback others receive is influenced by the internal sense we make of it and again that will be influenced via the meta-programmes our vMEMES are running and how the incoming information maps to our schemas.

If the environmental feedback causes so much dissonance that it leads to the emergence of a new vMEME – ie: not previously present in the vMEME stack – then this can be seen as an example of epigenetics. In rare instances, the environmental feedback is so severe that epigenetic modification may actually lead to what appears to be a permanent change in temperament. Eg: someone with a shy disposition in their childhood has become sociable and outgoing in their mid-thirties.

Bandura was at pains to state that observational modelling is affected by how much we identify with the person(s) being rewarded or punished for their behaviour. Thus, in his experiments with young children, he found that boys tended to identify much more with a male role model than a female one.

At a more complex level, our identification with the other person(s) will be influenced by the dominating vMEMES. Thus, BLUE will be very influenced by what happens to someone in terms of them conforming (or not) to the ‘one right way’. RED will tend to self-reference and disregard what happens to others, instead learning directly from environmental feedback to its own behaviour. However, if it perceives the other person(s) as having more power and/or status, then it is much more likely to take notice. Hence, the importance of celebrity role models – eg: footballers – to pre-teen and early teenage RED.

In 4Q/8L terms, the relationship between the Upper Left and each of the Lower Quadrants may well influence how environmental feedback is received. For example, if there is conflict between Lower Left and Lower Right, then, on the basis of default positions, BLUE dominating in the Upper Left is more likely to be receptive (at least initially) to the structural norms of the Lower Right while RED is more likely to rebel against them. On the other hand GREEN, with its emphasis on people, will have a natural tendency to start off favouring the Lower Left. Where people in the Lower Left determine to cause change on the Lower Right, Bandura (1999) termed this collective agency.


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