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Topic: Observational Learning

Modeling, otherwise known as observational learning, occurs from watching, retaining, and replicating a behavior observed from a model.

Observational learning, also referred to as modeling or social learning occurs by observing, retaining, and replicating behavior seen in others. The individuals performing the imitated behavior are called models. While this type of learning can take place at any stage in life, it is thought to be particularly important during childhood, when authority is important. Stemming from Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, observational learning allows for learning without any direct change to behavior; because of this, it has been used as an argument against strict behaviorism, which argues that behavior must occur for learning to have taken place.

Practice Questions

Khan Academy

Tickle me Nim. Do primates speak language?


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Practice Exam 3 P/S Section Passage 3 Question 16

Practice Exam 3 P/S Section Passage 7 Question 39

Key Points

• Observational learning, or modeling, is a type of learning most associated with the work and social learning theory of psychologist Albert Bandura.

• Observational learning can produce new behaviors, and either increase or decrease the frequency with which a previously learned behavior is demonstrated. This type of learning can also encourage previously forbidden behaviors.

Key Terms

social learning: a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction.

Albert Bandura: a psychologist and learning theorist who first proposed social learning theory and can be credited for first noting observational learning.

observational learning: learning that occurs as a function of seeing, retaining, and, in the case of imitation learning, replicating novel behavior executed by other people.

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