Individual and Collective Products and Producers of Society


Content 1. Development of agentic power, 2. Forethought, intentionality, reactiveness, and self-reflection, 3. Collective efficacy: shared belief in agency, 4. Applied collective agency

1. Development of agentic power

Theories like radical behaviorism and computerized cognitivism lack the recognition of human agency as a deliberative cognitive capacity that is consciously interacting with the surrounding. However, humans are not mindlessly and automatically functioning. From childhood, individuals develop through social interactions an understanding of causal effects of their actions and eventually about their agentic capability with which they can significantly influence their environment and even shape the result from seemingly fortuitous events [1]. Humans are at the same time the creations and creators of the social system [2].

2. Forethought, intentionality, reactiveness, and self-reflection

Four components represent agency respectively the incentivization system that allows people to act goal-oriented even in case of challenges. These are the reflection on consequences of an action (so-called forethought), the choice of an action to achieve an expected outcome (i.e., intentionality), the adaptation of the action to current circumstances (i.e., reactiveness), and the judgement about the appropriateness of the taken action also in relation to the social feedback (i.e., self-reflection) [3].

3. Collective efficacy: shared belief in agency

While the majority of research focused on personal and proxy agency, growing globalization increases the interest in the study of collective influences on the national and individual life [2]. In proxy agency, people seek representative actions from others. In collective agency people act as a group collaboratively to reach a common goal [4]. Most vital for the power of agency is the belief in the possibility to achieve a goal through the envisioned actions [1]). Efficacy beliefs allow strategic thinking. Shared beliefs in the ability of a group are at the core of collective agency. Importantly, group efficacy is a distinct variable rather than just the sum of individual perceptions of efficacy and therefore needs to be measured by how a group as a whole organizes and performs in the course of collective behavior [5].

4. Applied collective agency

Mature collective efficacy is positively correlated with adaptive innovation capacity of organizations in global marketplaces [1]. In health education, collective problem solving is used for better treatment decisions [6]. Regardless of culture or nationality, increased perceived self-efficacy leads to higher performance realization.  A strong belief in one’s power could be directed towards any moral type of goal. Studies indicate, though, that high self-efficacy is supportive of a pro-social attitude [4]. Consequently, to promote positive change, it is possible (and advisable) to improve individuals’ and groups’ agency [7]. Agency might be superior over passivity as it seems more harm is caused by passive obedience rather than by active reaction [8]. Personal, proxy, and collective forms of agency are all concomitantly required, although different cultures, generations, and socioeconomic situations weigh them differently [1] They should, therefore, be addressed in combination to achieve most successful interventions [9].


[1] Bandura, A. (2006). Toward a Psychology of Human Agency. Perspectives On Psychological Science, (2), 164.

[2] Bandura, A. (2001). SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY: An Agentic Perspective. Annual Review Of Psychology, 52(1), 1.

[3] Paul, M., Essén, B., Sariola, S., Iyengar, S., Soni, S., & Klingberg Allvin, M. (2017). Negotiating Collective and Individual Agency. Qualitative Health Research, 27(3), 311-324. doi:10.1177/1049732315613038

[4] Bandura, A. (2000). Exercise of Human Agency Through Collective Efficacy. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 9(3), 75-78.

[5] Verevkina, N., Shi, Y., Fuentes-Caceres, V. A., & Scanlon, D. P. (2014). Attrition in Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs and Self-Efficacy at Enrollment. Health Education & Behavior, 41(6), 590-598.

[6] Brudvig, T. J., Mattson, D. J., & Guarino, A. J. (2015). Critical Thinking Skills and Learning Styles in Physical Therapists Trained in India Enrolled in a Master’s Program. Journal Of Physical Therapy Education, 29(4), 5-13.

[7] Durrant, J. A. (2013). Portraits of teachers in landscapes of change : exploring the role of teachers in school improvement.

[8] Bandura, A. (2002). Selective Moral Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency. Journal Of Moral Education, 31(2), 101-119. doi:10.1080/0305724022014322

[9] Koletsou, A., & Mancy, R. (2011). Which efficacy constructs for large-scale social dilemma problems? Individual and collective forms of efficacy and outcome expectancies in the context of climate change mitigation. Risk Management-An International Journal, 13(4), 184-208.

  • Interesting, but the human race has suffered a serious deterioration of moral integrity which affects these ideas. We have learned to adapt to circumstances and how to advance ourselves technologically through innovation, but it is too often done individually instead of for the collective good. Our dominant social system is merely an economic system – which says a lot about how we’ve built modern society. Greed is accepted behavior today and compassion has been monetized to the detriment of all life on the planet.

    • Thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment. Much appreciated.
      I agree with your analysis of current situation, and it is important to point out the greediness and destruction of the extractive economic system, as frustrating as it may be. However, I think there is the possibility to shift towards a more cooperative economy. Ironically, the capitalist corporations have built the technological means that can facilitate co-operation towards a more humane economic system again across the global, time zones, and cultures. We need to protect the freedom of the internet and need to expand our democratic involvement in politics and the workplace. As you correctly mention, I also believe technology itself is not saving us. But if we use social media socially and collective creation purposefully, it can reinforce sparks of cooperation, compassion, and mutual care beyond monetary values. Unfortunately, some argue it could take quite a bit of patience until we see more progress, and I’m not very patient:-). Take care.
      I just published an article about cooperative learning:

  • Yes, some technology could make it easier for people to cooperate, but the assault of corporate indoctrination continues to condition the population to be apathetic and complacent . We are programmed to a more comfortable existence if we obey and a difficult life if we choose to think for ourselves and follow a compassionate ideology. It’s very effective, but one day enough people will awaken to the truth.

    • I agree, and I also like your positive outlook as I think too an awakening of more people is possible. The seemingly comfortable life is coming with some high taxes (like health issues, lack of fulfillment, etc.), and a self-reliable and compassionate life that appears to be more difficult bears more rewards than generally known. So, need to serve as a role model and spread the word:-)

      • Absolutely. And I want to thank you for your compassion, integrity, dedication to truth and penetrating intellect which are so necessary for survival of life on our beautiful planet – even though that isn’t even the main rason to have, and show, all of these characteristics.

        Compassion and a desire for truth are inherent in human nature. The insidious manipulators of the “ruling class” have blunted these traits and promote fear, hate and greed to be able to more easily exert control over the population. Most of us have been captured and are prisoners of our own fears, selfishness and mistrust.

        This must change. Thank you for doing your part. Peace, my friend.

  • Hi again. Could you please provide me the meaning of the word ‘agency’ and ‘agentic’? The dictionary is not of much help and I want to get the context right…

    • Hi Patty. Of course, thanks for asking.
      Agency is the (agentic = something or somebody’s) power to achieve something. Maybe one of the first uses in the article may clarify further. “Human agency as a deliberative cognitive capacity that is consciously interacting with the surrounding.” In that sense ‘agency’ is acting as an intermediary, on behalf of the human consciousness and the environment to achieve interaction, i.e., a mental action that integrates individual (internal) and contextual (external) aspects. So, this cognitive capacity is the active agent who creates the interaction between the human and the surrounding.
      Was this helpful in some way?