Observational Learning: The Youngest of Three

Alexandra Harrington

Growing up as the youngest of three children in my family was quite interesting. I have a sister six years older than me and a brother only three years older than me. In my younger years my sister had less interest in her younger siblings and more interest in her friends at school. This caused me to naturally grow closer to my brother since we were closer in age in relation to me. However, as I grew up and became more interested in my friends and personal life as well, I naturally grew closer to my sister whom I could relate to more. Today I am a 20 year-old girl who has been shaped by two completely different individuals throughout my entire life, mainly through a process called observational learning.

Observational learning is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others. As the youngest of my siblings I always have learned what I know from them before looking to people outside of my family. Between the two of them, I definitely have been shaped more by my brother for we are mentally more similar than my sister and I are today. The most specific instance of observational learning I remember is when I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and for the first time in my life try to pick up a sport. I was a freshman in high school which in comparison to most teenage American students is very late to attempt involving yourself in a sport for the first time. I decided to start running track simply because I looked up to my brother the most when he was a senior star athlete and I was just starting out high school. I found the sport to be extremely difficult and mentally taxing after the first few days. At this point, I decided to go to my brother for training advice. He taught me what I could not learn from just hearing him explain to me, he actually took the time to go down to the track with me and show me how to improve my workouts. It was then that I learned how to incorporate stride-outs and recovery paces through my track workouts, and it was all because I watched and learned from how my brother did so himself. Although this instance is the most specific I can recall in detail, there have been countless times where I have watched my brother accomplish something and therefore learned how to do so myself. Whether it was learning not to eat our macaroni before it cooled down when we were young, to eventually becoming a Maryland state runner two years after my brother initially trained me, I learned from observing.

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