Human agency in social cognitive theory

Am Psychol. 1989 Sep;44(9):1175-84. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.44.9.1175.


The present article examines the nature and function of human agency within the conceptual model of triadic reciprocal causation. In analyzing the operation of human agency in this interactional causal structure, social cognitive theory accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, self-reflective, and self-regulatory processes. The issues addressed concern the psychological mechanisms through which personal agency is exercised, the hierarchical structure of self-regulatory systems, eschewal of the dichotomous construal of self as agent and self as object, and the properties of a nondualistic but nonreductional conception of human agency. The relation of agent causality to the fundamental issues of freedom and determinism is also analyzed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Motivation*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment