Social Cognitive Career Theory of
Career Choice
Gail Hackett, Professor & Provost
Development of Bandura’s Work
 Social Learning Theory
• Social learning & personality development (Bandura & Walters, 1963)
• Principles of behavior modification (1969)
 Self Efficacy Theory (1977)
• Level, strength & generality
• Role in mediating choice, performance, persistence
 Social Cognitive Theory
• Social foundations of thought & action: A social cognitive theory
(1986)
• Self efficacy: The exercise of control (1997)
Our Early Work
Applications of Bandura’s Self-efficacy Theory to women’s
career development
Hackett & Betz (1981) theoretical statement
• Direct applications of self efficacy theory to explaining women’s
under-representation in male-dominated occupations
• Early areas of study:
• Occupational self-efficacy and career interests
• Math self-efficacy
• Career decision making self-efficacy
• Self-efficacy theory also had direct implications for intervention
• Research quickly branched out into applications to career choice and
development more generally
Social Cognitive Career Theory: Origins
• Based on Albert Bandura’s empirical/theoretical work over 4+ decades
(1969, 1977, 1986, 1997)
• Application of Bandura’s social cognitive theory to career behavior (Lent,
Brown & Hackett)
• Extended earlier work focused on career self-efficacy beliefs and their effect on
career choice and achievement (Hackett & Betz)
• Strong empirical evidence for core of model; increasing support for full model
• Social cognitive theory accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, selfregulatory and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change
(i.e., human agency)
• Stands in contrast to conceptions of human functioning that overemphasize
environmental or biological factors
• Theory contains direct implications for intervention
Reciprocal determinants of human
functioning
Social Cognitive Career Theory
(Lent, Brown & Hackett, 1994, 2000, 2002)
Contextual Influences
Proximal to Choice Behavior
Person Inputs
Self-efficacy
Expectations
- Predispositions
- Gender
- Race/ethnicity
- Disability/
Health status
Learning
Experiences
Background
Contextual
Background
Affordances
Interests
Outcome
Expectations
Goals
Actions
SCCT Model
Person Inputs and background context
Person Inputs
- Predispositions
- Gender
- Race/ethnicity
- Disability/
Health status
Learning
Experiences
Background
Contextual
Affordances
Distal Influences
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Person Inputs
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Race/ethnicity, gender
Physical appearance, health, disabilities
Special abilities, e.g., intelligence, musical ability, artistic ability, muscular coordination
Environmental conditions & events
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Socioeconomic status
Job & training opportunities
Social policies & procedures for selecting trainees & workers
Rate of return for various occupations (ROI)
Labor laws, union rules
Physical events (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, floods)
Availability & demand for natural resources
Technological developments (e.g., computers, web)
Changes is social organizations
Family training experiences & resources, neighborhood & community influences (e.g., family
religion, values, expectations, women’s roles, availability of models, etc.)
Education system (e.g., post-secondary opportunities affected tremendously by K-12 system)
SCCT Model: Learning effects on efficacy
and outcome expectations
Self-efficacy
Expectations
Learning
Experiences
Outcome
Expectations
Key Components of Social Cognitive Theory
Self-Efficacy Expectations: Beliefs in one’s capability to organize and execute the
courses of action required to manage prospective situations (Bandura, 1986)
Cognitive appraisals of one’s capacity to perform specific behaviors (future
directed)
Can you do this? How confident are you that you can do this?
Efficacy beliefs influence initiation/choice of activities, effort expended,
persistence in the face of obstacles, and ultimately success
NOT self-esteem or other trait construct
Outcome Expectations: Beliefs about the consequences of given actions
What will happen if I do this?
Consequences of successful performance
Goals: Determination to engage in a particular activity or to produce a particular outcome
What do I choose to do?
By setting personal goals, people help to organize, guide, and sustain
their own behavior
Learning Influences:
Sources of Self-Efficacy Information
Prior Performance
Accomplishment
Vicarious
Learning
Self-Efficacy
Social Persuasion
Physiological and
Affective Reactions
Building Self-efficacy expectations
 Performance Accomplishments
• Most powerful influence
• Attributions of performance important for take-away message
 Vicarious Learning
• Importance of model similarity along dimensions of importance to
the observer
• Observation of consequences of model’s behavior
 Social Persuasion
• Best when source of persuasion is credible
• Most commonly used but least powerful source of information
• Couple with other informational sources
 Physiological States and Affective Reactions
• Weak efficacy beliefs can produce anxiety/high levels of anxiety
undermine performance
• Anxiety reduction can enhance performance & self-efficacy
Attributions of Performance
 Attributions of Success
• Internal – Due to my own skills, abilities: likely to
increase efficacy, performance
• External – Easy test, course: likely to undermine or have
no effect on efficacy, performance
 Attributions of Failure
• Internal – Due to my lack of ability: undermining efficacy,
performance
• External – Due to the Instructor being a hard grader: No
effect on efficacy, performance
Observational Learning
SCCT Model: Learning effects on efficacy
and outcome expectations
Self-efficacy
Expectations
Learning
Experiences
Outcome
Expectations
Key Components of Social Cognitive Theory
Self-Efficacy: Beliefs in one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to
manage prospective situations
•OR cognitive appraisals of one’s capacity to perform specific behaviors in the future
• Can you do this? How confident are you that you can do this?
• Efficacy beliefs determine initiation, choice of activities, effort expended, &
persistence in the face of obstacles
Outcome Expectations: Beliefs about the consequences of given
actions
• What will happen if I do this?
• Consequences of successful performance
Goals: Determination to engage in a particular activity or to produce a particular outcome
• What do I choose to do?
• By setting personal goals, people help to organize, guide, and sustain their own behavior
Outcome X Efficacy Expectations
SCCT Model: Contextual influences on
interests, goals and actions
Contextual Influences
Proximal to Choice Behavior
Self-efficacy
Expectations
Interests
Outcome
Expectations
Goals
Actions
Key Components of Social Cognitive Theory
Self-Efficacy: Beliefs in one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to
manage prospective situations
•OR cognitive appraisals of one’s capacity to perform specific behaviors in the future
• Can you do this? How confident are you that you can do this?
• Efficacy beliefs determine initiation, choice of activities, effort expended, &
persistence in the face of obstacles
Outcome Expectations: Beliefs about the consequences of given actions
• What will happen if I do this?
• Consequences of successful performance
Goals: Determination to engage in a particular activity or to
produce a particular outcome
• What do I choose to do?
• By setting personal goals, people help to organize, guide, and
sustain their own behavior
Contextual Influences on Career and Academic
Behavior
• Objective and perceived aspects of the environment
influence beliefs, intentions, & actions
• Environmental barriers can erode efficacy and interests
• Conversely, strong efficacy can enable an individual to
surmount obstacles and persist in the face of barriers
• Three Primary Paths of Contextual Influences
– Distal (early) effects on acquisition of SE and OE
– Moderators of interest-choice relations
– Direct influences on choice
Social Cognitive Career Theory
Contextual Influences
Proximal to Choice Behavior
Person Inputs
Self-efficacy
Expectations
- Predispositions
- Gender
- Race/ethnicity
- Disability/
Health status
Learning
Experiences
Background
Contextual
Background
Affordances
Interests
Outcome
Expectations
Goals
Actions
Targets for Intervention
 Provide opportunities to build competencies
 Strengthen self-efficacy beliefs via the four sources of information
 Realistic self- appraisal of performance accomplishments
• Engage in mastery experiences
• Recognize strong performance
• Develop accurate attributions of performance (success and failure)
 Provide strong and varied models
• Diversity of academic, work models along varied dimensions of similarity
• Coping vs. mastery modeling
 Couple verbal/social persuasion with other information sources
 Address undermining anxiety related to performance and choice
 Strengthen & expand vocational interests in high aptitude areas
 Link education to work/careers via career exploration (from written/visual information
thru simulations, modeling, & job shadowing to practica & internships, research & work
experience)
 Address unrealistic outcome expectations
 Minimize barriers & enhance facilitators
 Clarify academic & career goals
Selected References
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Lent, R.W. (2013). Social cognitive career theory (pp. 115- 146). In S.D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career
development & counseling: Putting theory and research to work (2nd Ed.). New York: Wiley.
Hackett, G., & Lent, R.W. (2008). Social cognitive theory. In F. T. L. Leong (Editor-in-Chief), H.E.A.
Tinsley (Senior Editor) & S.H. Lease (Associate Editor), Encyclopedia of counseling, Volume 2:
Personal and emotional counseling. (pp. 767-769). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Betz, N.E., & Hackett, G. (2006). Career Self-efficacy Theory: Back to the Future. Journal of Career
Assessment, 14, 3-11.
Lent, R.W., Brown, S.D., & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory (pp. 255-311). In D. Brown, L.
Brooks, and Associates, Career choice and development (4th Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lent, R.W., Brown, S.D., & Hackett, G. (2000). Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: A social
cognitive analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 36-49.
Hackett, G. (1995). Self-efficacy and career choice and development. In A. Bandura (Ed.), Self-efficacy in
adaptation of youth to changing societies (232-258). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lent, R. W., Brown, S.D. & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unified social cognitive theory of career/academic
interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior [Monograph], 45, 79-122.
Hackett, G. & Betz, N.E. (1992). Self-efficacy perceptions and the career-related choices of college
students. In D. H. Schunk & J. L. Meece (Eds.), Student perceptions in the classroom: Causes and
consequences (pp. 229-246). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Lent, R. W., & Hackett, G. (1987). Career self-efficacy: Empirical status and future directions. Journal of
Vocational Behavior, 30, 347-382. (Monograph.)
Hackett, G. (1985). The role of mathematics self-efficacy in the choice of math-related majors of college
women and men: A path analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32, 47-56.
Hackett, G., & Betz, N. E. (1981). A self-efficacy approach to the career development of women. Journal of
Vocational Behavior, 18, 326-339.
 Questions?
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Social Cognitive Career Theory of Career Choice Gail Hackett