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Unformatted text preview: Toward a Psychology of Human Agency Albert Bandura Stanford University ABSTRACT This article presents an agentic theory of hu- man development, adaptation, and change. The evolu- tionary emergence of advanced symbolizing capacity enabled humans to transcend the dictates of their imme- diate environment and made them unique in their power to shape their life circumstances and the courses their lives take. In this conception, people are contributors to their life circumstances, not just products of them. Social cog- nitive theory rejects a duality between human agency and social structure. People create social systems, and these systems, in turn, organize and influence peoples lives. This article discusses the core properties of human agency, the different forms it takes, its ontological and epistemological status, its development and role in causal structures, its growing primacy in the coevolution process, and its influ- ential exercise at individual and collective levels across diverse spheres of life and cultural systems. Conceptions of human nature have changed markedly over time. In the early theological conceptions, human nature was ordained by original divine design. Evolutionism transformed the con- ception to one in which human nature is shaped by environ- mental pressures acting on random gene mutations and reproductive recombinations. This nonteleological process is devoid of deliberate plans or purposes. The symbolic ability to comprehend, predict, and alter the course of events confers considerable functional advantages. The evolutionary emer- gence of language and abstract and deliberative cognitive ca- pacities provided the neuronal structure for supplanting aimless environmental selection with cognitive agency. Human fore- bears evolved into a sentient agentic species. Their advanced symbolizing capacity enabled humans to transcend the dictates of their immediate environment and made them unique in their power to shape their life circumstances and the course of their lives. Through cognitive self-regulation, humans can create visualized futures that act on the present; construct, evaluate, and modify alternative courses of action to secure valued out- comes; and override environmental influences. In a later sec- tion, this article discusses the growing ascendancy of human agency in the coevolution process through the force of social and technological evolution. CORE PROPERTIES OF HUMAN AGENCY Social cognitive theory adopts an agentic perspective toward human development, adaptation, and change (Bandura, 1986, 2001). To be an agent is to influence intentionally ones func- tioning and life circumstances. In this view, personal influence is part of the causal structure. People are self-organizing, pro- active, self-regulating, and self-reflecting. They are not simply onlookers of their behavior. They are contributors to their life circumstances, not just products of them....
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- Fall '07
- The Land