Social Learning and Imitation: The Case of Observational Learning

Diposting oleh belajarpsikologi on 26 November 2010
Social learning theory originated with applications of drive reduction theories of reinforcement to imitation and aggression (Miller & Dollard, 1941; Dollard, Miller, Doob, Mowrer & Sears, 1939). Modern social learning theory, however, derives mostly from the work of Albert Bandura (1977) and his associates. Observational learning stands at the center of this system of ideas, along with the demonstration that contiguity between modeling cues and the observer’s perceptions appears to be mainly responsible for layingdown representations of the model’s behavior in the observer’s memory. 
Reinforcement of the observer is unnecessary; repeated trials are frequently unnecessary; and it appears that the information contained in modeling cues lies at the heart of the observational learning process. Modeling of specific acts may be synthesized by the observer to form regularized sequences, and these “scripts” become represented in memory. Broad categories (e.g., sympathy) may also be internalized, including information about elicitors and consequences; these categories have been called “schemas” (Schank & Abelson, 1977) and furnish the context for guiding, interpreting, and performing the modeled actions. 

Reproduction of modeling cues depends on a variety of conditions. Among the most salient are observed consequences of the model’s actions. Those that lead to favorable outcomes rather than unfavorable ones (as noted by the observer) are more likely to be reproduced. Empirical studies have established other conditions that determine whether a child will or will not replicate the actions of another person; for example, models who are nurturant, adept, and socially powerful are more likely to be imitated than those who do not possess these characteristics (Bandura, 1977). 
But nearly everything that has been learned about such matters derives from experiments in which adult models were used with child observers. A small but significant literature exists to show that children also imitate other children. Observational effects are particularly strong in certain instances (e.g., situations involving disinhibition accompanied by vicarious reinforcement) (Masters, Ford, Arend, Grotevant, & Clark, 1979). Documentation remains poor, however, with respect to manifestations of observational peer learning in everyday life, especially when there is a delay between the modeling event and its replication by the observer. Finally, developmental studies are lacking. 

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