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Observational Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples

Observational Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples
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  • 0:00 What is Observational…
  • 1:22 Steps to Observational…
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Clause
Observational learning goes on around us everyday. In this lesson, you will learn to identify the four steps in observational learning by examining a normal event. Test your understanding with the short quiz at the end.

What is Observational Learning?

Remember the first time you tried to make scrambled eggs for breakfast? Chances are you didn't get out a cookbook and follow step-by-step instructions. There's a good chance that you thought back to a time when you watched your mom make them and just followed what you remember her doing. So, how did you successfully cook scrambled eggs the first time you tried without a cookbook? The answer to that question is the focus of this lesson, a process called observational learning.

Observational learning has been a part of the human experience for a long time, but it wasn't until somewhat recently that psychologists began to examine this phenomenon closely in an effort to understand it better. Albert Bandura, a Canadian-born psychologist, gets credit for developing and popularizing Observational Learning Theory. Bandura did most of his work in the latter half of the 20th century. Bandura theorized that observational learning occurs in four distinct steps: attention, retention, motor reproduction and reinforcement. These four concepts used in sequence allow organisms to acquire the ability to engage in new, at times complex, behaviors simply through observation.

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