Practicing Exercise in Applied Social Psychology

Observational learning is a major component of American psychologist Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. Observational learning is a method of learning that consists of observing and modeling another individual’s behavior, attitudes, or emotional expressions. This method is often used when talk therapy alone would not be considered an effective method for treating certain conditions. For example, phobias. Applied social psychologist would use observational learning to treat a phobia. There are four main components to observational learning including attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation/ opportunity. These four components are necessary to form any modeling or observations.

In order for individuals to learn anything, they need to pay attention. If you are going to learn how to do anything you must pay attention. You will not learn how to drive a car if you do not pay attention to the driving instructor teaching you how to drive, for example. Bandura and others have shown that individuals pay more attention to models that are attractive, similar to them, or prestigious and are rewarded for their behaviors (Stone, 2017).

Retention is being able to remember the action that was learned. For example, if an individual is learning to drive, they must remember or retain the information that was learned, how to start the car, put the car in drive, etc.

Motor reproduction is the physical ability to engage in said behavior. So going back to learning how to drive a car example, it is unlikely that a child under 5 is going to be able to drive a car. For one, they wouldn’t reach the petals. However, a 16 year old would have the physical ability to fully operate a vehicle.

Motivation/ opportunity is possibly the most important component. In order to successfully learn anything there has to be a reason/ motivation for wanting to learn. For example, a 16 year old learning to drive would have the motivation of receiving their drivers license and not have to be chauffeured around by their parents any longer. A 5 year old, however, doesn’t have interest because they are not legally able to drive yet.

Attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation/ opportunity are all critical components of Albert Bandura’s observational learning. Without each one it is unlikely that this method would be successful.


Stone, S. M. (2017, July 7). Observational learning. Retrieved from

1 comment

  1. I found your post regarding observational learning to be very informative. As I was reading through your post, I was able to connect with your driving example. I believe that individuals pay attention, remember what is learned, perform motor reproduction, and have the motivation to learn when in certain situations. I am curious as to if individuals in our society can perform specific physical movements at younger ages without being shown in person due to observational learning over the internet. I also am wondering if the internet helps to expand children’s skills at younger generations because they are continually learning through observation

    In today’s society, many people spend countless hours of their day watching YouTube videos. When I was a nanny, I noticed that the children I cared for never turned on the TV and replaced this electronic time with YouTube videos. The young boy would watch sports replays, and the young girl would watch makeup videos. The girl was ten years old and would come home and finish her homework as quickly as possible and was extremely motivated to view a new video from her favorite makeup artist. During the video, she would have undivided attention. Following the video, she would discuss the tools, procedures, and steps to recreate the beautiful makeup look that she had just learned. The young girl would then recreate the look using me as the mannequin. The young girl I was babysitting was able to recreate the image flawlessly. Similarly, I have found the young boy doing basketball tricks that I would never expect from him.

    Overall, I believe our society is continuously learning through observation through the internet and social media. I think that this can be a blessing and a curse for those young, growing minds.

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