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 https://www.britannica.com/science/observational-learning