Social Learning Theory and the Health Belief Model

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Social learning relates to the works of Albert Bandura. According to the theory, knowledge acquisition is a social process that involves cognition within a social setting and can occur entirely through observation of those who have been identified and marked as trustworthy. Besides the view of behavior, one can also learn through rewards or punishments. For instance, an affirmative action demonstrated by an individual, when rewarded, the person is likely to repeat the same. The theory is established on the foundations of the old behavioral approaches where positive behavior is a consequence of reinforcement of the inner complex processes of the human mind.

In the article “social learning theory and the health belief model,” Rosenstock Irwin tries to examine the confusion that still exists in the Health Belief model, as a tool for explaining social learning. The article attempts to illustrate the relationship between the various factors that influence learning as a social process. Through the examinations, the authors exploit a theory which incorporates the self-efficacy into the Health Belief Model. The article proposes self-efficacy as an isolated, independent variable alongside the traditional variables of the Health Belief which are commonly perceived to be severe, beneficial or susceptible. Health motivation, incentives have also formed part of this hybrid model. On the other hand, the model explicitly excludes the locus of control, since it forms part of the other components of the model. The new formulation aims to provide a full account of the behavior that relates to the health status of individuals, as well as the social well being. Besides, the "hybrid" model would able to propose more health interventions than those that have ever been available for use by the health educators before.

Relevancy to Individuals

The social learning theory (SLT) can be used to explain how individuals learn new ideas and acquire new behavior through observation. According to the Health Belief Model, the health-related behaviors are influenced by other factors that must co-occur simultaneously. Firstly, there must be enough motivation for the health issues to remain relevant. Secondly, an individual must be vulnerable to a severe health condition.Thirdly, there must be a belief that a recommended solution to the health issue will benefit the individual by reducing the perceived risk, at an acceptable cost (Rosenstock, Strecher, & Becker, 2014). The locus of control is strongly related to outcome expectations as opposed to efficacy. As a consequence, the behavior of an individual would determine learning outcome, but ignores the capability to perform the act. Therefore, those who believe that the learning outcomes are personally determined are likely to experience a low degree of self-efficacy if they lack the required skills for that particular behavior (Rosenstock, Strecher, & Becker, 2014).  For any response to occur in any person, both the outcome expectation (internal locus) and the efficacy expectation must be realized at the same time.

In a medical set-up, the patients need to be aware of their safety measures before hospitalization happens. Patients are usually disadvantaged when it comes to getting new information while in the state of sickness. Indeed, studies indicate that such patients are only able to recall up to 20 % of the message acquired at the status of illness since the memory is affected by the perceived importance the message being relayed. Therefore, the signals concerning safety should be considered as important as that of diagnosis so that it does not disappear within the myriad of decisions that must be made at the same time.

Relevance to Education, Workforce and Development

During health-program planning, many health educators finds it imperative to evaluate the education requirements using the Health Belief Model. In such circumstances, the educators ensure that the interest, the vulnerability of the target group, and the belief in the capacity of the interventions to reduce the risks at an acceptable cost is identified before the implementation of the programs. Such assessments act as a tool towards improving the program planning activities. 

Contracts between patient and provider represent a highly effective approach to promoting self-efficacy. In the agreement, the patient and the provider have the opportunity to discuss and agree on the goal of offering medication on the health condition, together with the time limits for the accomplishment of the set objective. The technique works very efficiently when adequately implemented because of the therapeutic alliance formed between the provider and the patient. When the goal is achieved as initially agreed, the sense of self-efficacy is also enhanced; hence the provider can sign a new contract with the same, or a new client.

Social marketing promotes the safety of patients since it ensures that everyone under medication is aware of the threats that are associated with entering a health care system. Besides, the sick also get to know in advance the benefits of becoming more involved during the treatment process. Social learning has pioneered many changes in the field of education and medicine. Many teachers and parents appreciate the significance of modeling the appropriate behaviors in a manner that promotes self-efficacy and social learning.


Rosenstock, I. M., Strecher, V. J., & Becker, M. H. (2014). Social Learning Theory and the Health Belief Model. Health Education and Behavior, 28-145.

August 14, 2023




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