Observational Learning

In this lesson you will learn about observational learning. Observational learning is, "the ability to learn without direct experience, by observing and imitating others." (Psychology, Segel, pg. 146). This is primarily done through the use of models: live models, verbal models, and symbolic models.

Albert Bandura The Social Learning Theory Models  Media   Bobo Doll Experiment 

"Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action." - Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura


Famous for doing research in human development and more particularly observational learning. Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925. Years later in 1949, Bandura received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and became more and more interested in human development. As time went on, Bandura worked with his first doctoral student, to come up with his modeling behavior and observational learning theories. One of his more popular ones was the Social Learning Theory.




Social Learning Theory: there are 3 concepts...



Main way to learn by observing is through models:


  1. Live models or people
  2. Verbal/instructional models
  3. Symbolic models or the media



Media has a huge impact on people and especially children whether it be through music, books, internet, or television. Research shows that aggressive behavior is often caused from exposure to some type of violent act in a video game or movie. What is accepted in society is often very important to children as they are growing up. Television depicts people in certain ways and then people often mimic what they see. One of the main reasons media is such a highly discussed topic in the area of observational learning is because it incorporates all 3 types involved: live, verbal, and symbolic models.


Bobo Doll Experiment

Good example of modeling. Bandura's bobo doll experiment was his most famous experiment used to prove observational learning from models. Bandura used a test group (children between ages of 3 and 6) to research aggression in children. The group of children was placed in a room and given time to observe adult models harassing a toy bobo doll. The children were then placed in the same room and observed for 20 minutes and these were the results: More boys mimicked the aggressive behavior then girls. Not only were actions mimicked, but so were things that were said (verbal modeling). Almost all of the children that were exposed to the aggressive behavior acted out in the same way.

bobo doll

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Bobo doll

Created by: Shayla Dahl on 12/6/11. Page last updated on 12/6/11.