Social Cognitive Theory in Advanced Nursing Practice

One of the behavior change theories that have been employed in advanced nursing practice is the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT). SCT considers the complexities of human behavior, suggesting that multiple internal and external factors are at play when a person learns something new (Middleton, Hall, & Raeside, 2018; Spear, 2016). The internal factors are personal (for example, values or attitudes) and behavioral.

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The external factors include a variety of phenomena that may incorporate organizational culture or social norms, but they also involve educational activities like reinforcement (Arguel, Perez-Concha, Li, & Lau, 2016). Furthermore, an important element of SCT is the concept of self-efficacy, which signifies a person’s ideas regarding the feasibility of a task (Spear, 2016). Simply put, if a person does not believe that an activity is feasible, this belief needs to be addressed for progress to occur.

SCT’s primary advantage is its focus on both psychological and social factors, as well as their interplay. The attention to a wide variety of influences can help to explain human behavior while also suggesting the means of modifying it (Middleton et al., 2018; Spear, 2016). As a result, SCT has been used to provide a basis for nursing informatics research, especially when various literacy improvement interventions are concerned (Middleton et al., 2018).

Given the helpfulness of SCT for facilitating change, especially behavioral change (Hekler et al., 2016), its practical application in advanced nursing practice is also apparent (Arguel et al., 2016; Spear, 2016). In particular, it can be employed to guide the adoption of various technologies and introduce interventions that improve their use.

However, SCT also has some weaknesses. Primarily, it is relatively broad and exists mostly to explain human behavior and the means of changing it. If it is compared to other change theories (for example, the ideas of Lewin or Rogers) (Spear, 2016), it becomes apparent that SCT does not provide substantial guidance about the stages of organizational change or its management. Further, SCT focuses heavily on learning, which makes it particularly useful for educational interventions but can render it less helpful for other tasks. However, these disadvantages can be viewed as the distinctive features of SCT. If a DNP-prepared nurse keeps them in mind, he or she can employ SCT for the activities that can be properly guided by it and substitute or complement it with other models when required.


Arguel, A., Perez-Concha, O., Li, S., & Lau, A. (2016). Theoretical approaches of online social network interventions and implications for behavioral change: A systematic review. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 24(1), 212-221. Web.

Hekler, E. B., Michie, S., Pavel, M., Rivera, D. E., Collins, L. M., Jimison, H. B.,… Spruijt-Metz, D. (2016). Advancing models and theories for digital behavior change interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 51(5), 825-832. Web.

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Middleton, L., Hall, H., & Raeside, R. (2018). Applications and applicability of Social Cognitive Theory in information science research. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 2018, 1-11. Web.

Spear, M. (2016). How to facilitate change. Plastic Surgical Nursing, 36(2), 58-61. Web.

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