Observational Learning

Observational Learning

Observational learning: The acquisition of new forms of behavior, information or concepts through exposure to others and the consequences they experience.

Key factors in Observational Learning:

1. Attention:  The extent to which humans focus on other’s behavior. As in order to learn something people must direct their observation to appropriate models that attract them either through their actions or status.

2. Retention: Individuals’ ability to retain a representation of others’ behavior in memory. For instance, People are able to remember what the person have said or done. Only if they can retain some representation of other’s actions in memory, they only they can perform similar actions.

3. Production Processes: One’s ability to convert memory representations into appropriate actions. This is also termed as production processes. Production process depends on two aspects: 1) Individual’s own physical ability.   2) Human’s capacity to monitor one’s own performance and adjust until it matches of the model.

4. Motivation:  The usefulness to humans of the information acquired.

Bobo Doll Experiment: It is one of the famous experiments conducted by Albert Bandura who states that children are able to learn through observation of adult behavior. The study was on aggression- the famous experiment carried out in 1961 at Stanford University. For conducting the experiment, Bandura used 3- and -5 foot inflatable plastic toys called Bobo dolls, which were painted like cartoon clowns and were bottom- weighted so that they would return to an upright position when knocked down. There were three groups: one group observed aggressive adult behavior models; another group observed nonaggressive behavior models; and the third group was not exposed to any behavior models.

The three groups were divided on the basis of gender into six subgroups in which half of the groups would observe a same-sex behavior model and half would observe an opposite-sex behavior model. In the first stage of the experiment, the children were individually seated at a table in one corner of an experimental room and presented with diverting activities that had previously been shown to be of high interest to the children in order to discourage active participation and encourage mere observation. The behavior model was taken to the opposite corner- which contained another table and chair, a mallet and a 5-foot Bono doll- and was told children could play with these materials. In the aggressive behavior model groups, the model abused the Bobo doll both physically and verbally.

In the nonaggressive behavior model groups, the model ignored the Bobo doll and instead quietly assembled the Tinker toys.

In the second phase of the experiment, the children were taken individually into a different experimental room, where they were presented with a new group of appealing toys. To assess the hypothesis that the observation of aggression in the participants, the children were exposed to aggression arousal in the form of being told after two minutes that they could no longer play with the toys. The children were then told that they could, however, play with the toys in another room, where they were presented with various toys that were considered both aggressive and nonaggressive.

In the final stage of the experiment the children’s behavior was observed over the course of 20 minutes and rated according to the degree of physically and verbally aggressive behavior they modeled, the results of which yielded significantly higher scores for children in the aggressive behavior model group compared with those in both the nonaggressive behavior model and control groups. Subsequent experiments in which children were exposed to such violence on videotape yielded similar results, with nearly 90 percent of the children in the aggressive behavior groups later modeling the adults’ behavior by attacking the doll in the same fashion and 40 percent of the those children exhibiting the same behavior after eight months.  

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