Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are promising candidates for use in alternative energy technologies. A full understanding of the reaction mechanisms in these dynamic material systems is required to optimize device performance and overcome present limitations. Here, we show that in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can be used to study redox reactions and ionic conductivity in SOFCs in a gas environment at elevated temperature. We examine model ultrathin half and complete cells in two environmental TEMs using off-axis electron holography and electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Our results from the model cells provide insight into the essential phenomena that are important for the operation of commercial devices. Changes in the activities of dopant cations in the solid electrolyte are detected during oxygen anion conduction, demonstrating the key role of dopants in electrolyte architecture in SOFCs.