According to Albert Bandura, observational learning is a learning process of identifying a model and reproducing their behaviour. Reproduction of the observed behaviour can result on the basis of whether the behaviour of the model carries with it positive or negative consequences. This can also be referred to as vicarious reinforcement or vicarious punishment of the model’s behaviour. An observer will more likely reproduce the actions of a model whose characteristics they find attractive or desirable. An observer can acquire a behaviour while not performing it, preferring to utilize the learnt behaviour at an appropriate time. Observational learning can be processed as modelling particular patterns of behaviours and learning emotional responses such as fear, anxiety or pleasure. Observational learning occurs through four processes attention, retention, production and motivation. Attention
The initial condition required for effective modeling in Bandura’s Social Learning Theory is attention. According to Baron & Byrne, (2004) attention refers to information that we notice. The level of this attention is determined by various factors which may increase or decrease the extent of which attention is paid. These factors are characterized by a learner’s abilities which are determined by one’s sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set and past reinforcement. The sensory capacities; visual acuity, colour discrimination, pure tone hearing, speech recognition and sound localization. The depth, presence or absence of these capacities determines the measure of attention that can be and would be displayed. A simple example of this; a teacher may attempt to teach the art of dance encompassing the symbolic model of film. However, for the students to encode what is being taught, that is to pay attention, they must utilize their sensory capacities. Arousal level also influences quality of attention paid and its features can vary from fear and aggression to excitement and sexual experiences. Researchers Baron and Byrne (2004) have identified two levels of arousal; heightened arousal and sexual arousal. In their studies, they have noted that heightened arousal “can increase aggression if it persists beyond the situation in which it was induced and is falsely interpreted as anger”. With regards to mild levels of sexual arousal, it was indicated that these levels “reduce aggression, while higher levels increase such behaviours”. These factors, through the Excitation Transfer Theory and the Fight or Flight Theory too can determine the level of attention exhibited.
Saul McLeod (2007) defines perceptual set as "a perceptual bias or predisposition or readiness to perceive particular features of a stimulus". He noted that is has the tendency to “perceive or notice” certain features of sensory information and disregard others, which relates directly to the definition of attention – what we notice, as well as one’s sensory capacities. He indicated two methods in which perceptual set functions through the ‘Selector’ and the ‘Interpreter’. Firstly, “the perceiver has certain expectations and focuses attention on particular aspects of the sensory data: this he calls a Selector'” and secondly, “the perceiver knows how to classify, understand and name selected data and what inferences to draw from it. This he calls an 'Interpreter'. Retention
Retention is a variable that affects social learning theory. According to Ormrod, (2004) retention is learning from a model to remember behaviour that has been observed. In fact, Ormrod, (2004) stated that one simple way to remember what has been seen is to rehearse. To rehearse in its simplest form is to repeat something over and over until it can be performed unconsciously and effortlessly. According to Hergenhahn and Olson, (2001) information gained from observation must be retained if it is to be useful. To retain said information symbolic coding, mental images,...
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