Social Cognitive Theory in Cultural Context

The present article addresses human functioning in cultural embeddedness from the agentic perspective of social cognitive theory. To be an agent is to influence intentionally one's functioning and life circumstances. Social cognitive theory distinguishes among three modes of agency: direct personal agency; proxy agency that relies on others to act on one's behest to secure desired outcomes; and collective agency exercised through group action. In personal agency exercised individually, people bring their influence to bear directly on themselves and their environment in managing their lives. In many spheres of life people do not have direct control over the social conditions and institutional practices that affect their everyday lives. Under these circumstances, they seek their well-being and valued outcomes through the exercise of proxy agency. In this socially mediated mode of agency, people try to get those who have access to resources, expertise or who wield influence and power to act at their behest to secure the outcomes they desire.  People do not live their lives autonomously. Many of the things they seek are achievable only through socially interdependent effort. Hence, they have to pool their knowledge, skills, and resources, provide mutual support, form alliances, and work together to secure what they cannot accomplish on their own.