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Analyzing Michael Jackson using the Social-Cognitive Approach

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Michael Jackson is known as the King of Pop. His musical career dates back to when he was a child. He has sold millions of albums adult conduct has reverted into childlike behavior. According to a social-cognitive analysis of Jackson’s actions, his behavior – the childlike actions and associating with children as if they were his peers – is a result of predominantly internal factors, such as his desire to experience the childhood he never had. Any external factors that might play into the behavior could be, once again, his financial freedom, which would afford him the opportunity to purchase some of the items – such as the roller coasters and animals – that would help him to return to his childhood.

Since Jackson did not have the typical childhood other children did, he had to learn his childlike behavior through another means. Bandura held the conviction that learning was not limited to classical and operant conditioning (Burger, p. 391). He believed people could learn “by observing or reading or hearing about other people’s actions” (Burger, p. 391). To make his determination of what a childhood should be, Jackson had to rely on observations he made through his childhood and adult life. These observations may not exactly have mirrored what many would consider to be a typical childhood since Jackson was not able to observe, much less experience, childhood for a prolonged period of time.

Jackson may have seen what he could from television and movies, especially in his adult years when he was able to have more control over his own life as opposed to when he was a child and his father ruled over him. These observations likely showed Jackson a kind of fantasy world, especially since he would rather have experienced that perfect fantasy for a childhood than the one he actually had. With the financial freedom he had, he was able to at least purchase part of that fantasy. Inviting children to Neverland Ranch gave him the pre-adolescent “friends” he probably never had when growing up.

Michael Jackson is one of the most intriguing individuals over the last four decades. Through a social-cognitive approach to Michael Jackson’s behaviors and the internal and external factors that surround him, we can catch a glimpse of what changed him into one of the most outlandish individuals in the world.

Works Cited:

Burger, Jerry M. (2004). Personality (6th Ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson


Holmes, Leonard. (2003, November 20). He Doesn’t Get It – Someone Should Step In.

Retrieved from http://mentalhealth.about.com/cs/abuse/a/michael.htm

Michael Jackson Bio. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2006, from VH-1’s Web site:


Michael Jackson’s Secret Childhood. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2006, from VH-1’s Web



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