On Friday, February 9, 2018, I had the fortunate pleasure of having lunch with Professor Albert Bandura at Pai Tan in Palo Alto, California. Yes, you might ask yourself, do you mean “The Albert Bandura?” My answer is: yes, that is the person I am talking about – the bright and talented Professor of Psychology who developed Social Cognitive Theory – which so many of us use in our daily work, both in science and practice, to impact behavior change and improve the health and wellbeing of our population.
One question that I had been eager to ask Professor Bandura was how did he ever come up with the idea of developing Self-Efficacy Theory? He was delighted to walk me through a series of stories on how he was able to help individuals overcome their snake phobias through a series of successive modeling and skills building techniques. These techniques included having them wear a glove and placing their hand on top of his while petting the snake. Although I have been using Bandura’s self-efficacy theory in many of my own community-based trials for years to improve physical activity and weight-related outcomes in underserved populations, hearing the details of how he was able to assist so many in overcoming their fears gave me pause and insight on thinking through my own ability to really address targeted barriers that may be instrumental in increasing the likelihood of successful behavioral change in my ongoing programs. A highlight of this conversation was also hearing how one snake – a boa constrictor – accidentally escaped during an experiment through the air duct. Fortunately, the snake returned on its own within three days to eat! One of the most profound findings that I had forgotten with regard to the snake phobia research was that at a 4 year follow up Professor Bandura was able to demonstrate that the participants were still over their snake phobia and they had expanded their lives to engage in many more adventurous activities than they expected since overcoming their phobias.
On a personal level, Professor Bandura is one of the most delightful individuals I have ever met. Not only is he incredibly smart and on top of world events and politics, but he is charming and has a fantastic sense of humor! He is so very gracious and humble, and it was a delightful day that I will never forgot.
I presented him with a book of letters of appreciation for the impact that he has had on my life, as well as those of my colleagues and students. We are putting this into a formal book and will include pictures of the “Day with Albert Bandura”. If you would like to send me you letter and picture to add the collection you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 1, 2018!
I would also like to thank Professor Kate Lorig at Stanford University for being so kind to set up this wonderful lunch date for the three of us!!
Dawn K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of South Carolina
2017 Past President of the Society for Health Psychology