The Effects of Prosocial and Antisocial Modeling

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  • 0:04 Observational Learning
  • 0:30 Steps in the Modeling Process
  • 1:40 Effects of Positive Modeling
  • 2:26 Effects of Negative Modeling
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson will cover a process of learning we undergo by observing the behavior of others and the effects that it can have on our own behavior.

Observational Learning

Many of us have people that we have looked up to while growing up, such as a parent, relative, or close friend. Much of the way we learn about the world comes from watching and imitating other people, especially those we look up to, or observational learning. The people performing the imitated behaviors are called models. If you want to see modeling in action, look no further than a small child pretending to be a superhero they saw in a cartoon or on television.

Steps in the Modeling Process

Learning through observation takes more than pure imitation. In fact, professor and psychologist, Albert Bandura, described the specific steps associated with this process, including attention, retention, and motivation.

First, we must focus our attention on what we are observing and not become distracted by other things. If we don't focus on the behavior, then there's no chance of emulating it. Next, we must have a way to retain what we witnessed and store it in our memory. We must be able to reproduce the behavior to do it ourselves later. Finally, we must also be motivated, or desire to learn, in order to start learning in the first place.

Bandura demonstrated how a person progresses through the stages of modeling by observing children imitating an adult's aggressive and violent behavior. In one part of what would become known as the 'Bobo the Doll experiment', Bandura observed how children three to six years of age would act towards a five-foot inflatable doll if an adult first treated the doll in an aggressive manner. They also observed that the adult was not punished for treating the doll this way. According to the results, the children imitated the aggressive behavior of the adult towards the doll, which did not come as much of a surprise.

Effects of Positive Modeling

As a result of his studies, Bandura concluded that modeling can have both prosocial or positive, helpful effects on relationships, as well as antisocial or negative effects on relationships and behavior. In other words, children are more likely to imitate positive behavior if they're exposed to appropriately behaved models. Growing up, a child's parents or primary caretakers are likely to act as their biggest sources of information when learning about the world. Early on, children are more likely to imitate behavior they learn at home versus anywhere else.

For example, if we want children to be healthy, we should let them see us exercising and eating nutritious foods. If we want them to act with good manners in social situations, we must also show them what that looks like by being polite and kind with others.

Effects of Negative Modeling

Just as children are likely to reproduce good behavior by observing positive role models, they are also just as likely to reproduce observable bad behaviors. In fact, data suggests that some children who are abused growing up are more likely to become abusers themselves, which leads to a vicious cycle of violence.

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