Compare and contrast behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive theories of development.

Compare and contrast behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive theories of development.


In this essay, I will be exploring the similarities and differences between behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive theories of development. I will provide an overview of each theory, explore the core assumptions of each theory, and compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. By the end of this essay, the reader will gain a comprehensive understanding of the similarities and differences between these three theories of development.
There are three major theories of development that help to explain how people learn and grow over the course of their lifetime: behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive. Keller et al. (1999) conducted research to better understand the differences between these theories and how they impact development. Behavioral theory suggests that people learn through direct experiences and that environment is the main influence on behavior. Social-cognitive theory proposes that learning is based on observing and modeling the behavior of others, and that social context plays a major role in development. Cognitive theory argues that development is guided by the internal processes of problem solving, reasoning, and memory. All three theories have their own strengths and weaknesses, and offer valuable insights into the development of individuals. However, research suggests that the most effective way to understand development is to take an integrative approach, combining elements from each of the three theories in order to adequately explain the complexities of learning and growth (Keller et al., 1999).
In their 2019 paper, SD Brown and RW Lent explore the core assumptions of behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive theories of development. They note that while these theories are often presented as distinct and competing frameworks, there are also points of convergence between them. For example, all three theories see development as a complex, dynamic, and continuous process that is shaped by a combination of biological and environmental factors. Moreover, all three theories emphasize the importance of context in understanding development, and all share an appreciation for the role of learning in shaping behavior and development. Brown and Lent (2019) suggest that an appreciation of the overlap between these theories can help to create a more comprehensive and unified framework for understanding development. Ultimately, they argue that a deeper understanding of the commonalities between these theories can lead to more effective interventions and learning opportunities for individuals at different stages of development.
In the study conducted by FG Stacey, EL James, and K Chapman and published in the Journal of Cancer in 2015, a comparison and contrast of the strengths and weaknesses of behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive theories of development was undertaken. Behavioral theories, such as classical and operant conditioning, are mainly concerned with how environment influences behavior. Strengths of these theories include their ability to explain how behavior is acquired and maintained, as well as their ability to provide concrete, measurable examples of behavior. However, weaknesses include an oversimplification of complex behaviors and a lack of consideration of internal processes, such as the person’s thoughts and feelings. Social-cognitive theories, such as social learning theory, focus on the interplay of environmental and cognitive factors. Strengths of these theories include their emphasis on individual differences and their ability to explain behavior in terms of both environmental and cognitive factors. Weaknesses include a lack of emphasis on the role of unconscious processes, such as automatic thoughts, and an oversimplification of the complex interplay of environmental and cognitive factors. Finally, cognitive theories, such as Piaget’s theory, focus on the development of the individual’s thought processes. Strengths of these theories include their emphasis on the development of the individual over time and their ability to explain complex cognitive processes. Weaknesses include a lack of emphasis on the role of the environment and a lack of consideration of individual differences. The research conducted by FG Stacey, EL James, and K Chapman provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three theories, thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the development of behavior.
Overall, the three theories of development—behavioral, social-cognitive, and cognitive—provide unique insights into how humans learn, grow, and develop. Behavioral theories focus on external influences that shape behavior, social-cognitive theories focus on the role of thinking in determining behavior, and cognitive theories focus on the internal mental processes that drive behavior. Each of these theories has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each can be used to gain valuable understanding into the development of children and adults. It is important to recognize the distinctions between the three theories and to understand the ways in which they are similar in order to be able to effectively compare and contrast them.
Work Cited
SD Brown., RW Lent.”Social cognitive career theory at 25: Progress in studying the domain satisfaction and career self-management models.”
“Predictive ability of social cognitive theory in exercise research: an integrated literature review.”
“A systematic review and meta-analysis of social cognitive theory-based physical activity and/or nutrition behavior change interventions for cancer survivors.”

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