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Concept of Observational Learning Analytical Essay

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Updated: Oct 21st, 2019


Learning takes place in many forms particularly when a person is growing up. Learning mainly refers to the acquisition of experience that eventually leads to development of permanent change in the functioning and behavior of a group of learners.

In view of the above, learning deals with the uptake of behaviors and skills combined with values and knowledge useful in shaping the day-to-day activities of an individual. In addition, the integration of preferences and understanding helps in the subsequent synthesis of crucial information. While learning is inherently found in humans, a great deal of studies on animals has also shown similarities in their learning behavior with those of human beings (Zentall, 2006, p. 338).

This essay entails the definition of observational learning and its development in human beings. It is indicated that observational learning takes place during childhood and it is greatly dependent on social and environmental factors, which influence the behavior and thoughts of the child.

Observational Learning during Childhood

Observational learning is believed to play a major role in learning particularly in children. Observational learning refers to the type of learning premised on observation and retention followed by replication of the behaviors. It is therefore worth noting that the reinforcement plays a major role in helping ascertain the responses that will be synthesized into actions than it impacts on the eventual acquisition (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961, p. 576).

While observational learning occur at all developmental stages, increased application of the method is observed in childhood taking into account that children are subject to authority. In view of the way observational learning occurs, studies have indicated that the television programs and slightly older siblings’ actions influence greatly the behaviors adopted by the children.

The Bobo doll experiment is a good example that can be related to the social learning theory. The experiment implicates three groups of children in watching an adult involved in an act of kicking directed at an inflated doll, where the doll is hit severally, thrown across the room, and punched harshly.

The three groups observed different scenarios, which they overly replicated on introduction to the doll. While aggressiveness is observable in the children who saw hitting as a rewarding act, the opposite is seen in the last group that observed the act as a punishment. In comparison with observational learning, the Bobo doll experiment denotes that the introduction of new events and activities are imperative to set a foundation in the process of learning.

The act of kicking the doll is similar to an observation in the learning process. The act of absorbing the observed actions commensurate with the retention espoused in the learning process. Subsequently, the replication of the kicking as depicted in the level of aggressiveness in the three groups of children is imperative for learning to occur.

In comparison, both approaches put emphasis on the importance to expose the learner to a new event, which will eventually result in the integration of the acts into a person’s thinking and subsequent actions aided by the functions of the motor neurons (Bandura et al, 1961, p. 576; Galef & Laland, 2005, p. 490).

Therefore, motor and neurons are important avenues under which the human brain gains the ability to undertake certain activities observed in various settings. While observing other humans undertaking the acts is the most common way of learning, improvements in technology have presented several scenarios under which learning occurs.

The observed acts are coded in the brain of humans and animals while the actual sequence of the motor actions is retained in the frontal lobe. In the event that the person or animal encounters the objects utilized in the mirrored events, an array of chemical and sensory actions occur in the brain resulting in the eventual replication of the actions.

In such a case, the sensory neurons perceive the mirrored event on seeing the said objects. This information is then transferred to the brain where it is synthesized resulting into commands to the body organs through the motor neurons. More importantly, the frontal lobe helps in linkage of the sequence of the mirror event hence allowing the brain to send synchronized messages to the affected parts in relation to the external environment (Zentall, 2006, p. 338).

Observational learning has much influence in an individual’s life particularly during the early developmental stages. Growing up with one’s older siblings helps an individual to learn about the right and wrong behaviors.

The fact that one’s older sibling is overly punished for leaving the water running helps instill some restraint behavior when it came to dealing with water. For example, if a child’s older sibling regularly takes water in small bottles in order to spray other children and forgot to close down the tap despite being warned severally, he/she is bound to be punished in order to correct the behavior.

If these actions are repeated each time, the tap is left running and in the presence of the child, this child will come to learn that taps should be closed after use in order to avoid punishments. The observations and the learnt experiences helps the child to understand that wastage of water leads to severe punishments such as canning thereby instilling positive behaviors in the child’s life (Zentall, 2006, p. 338).


The essay presents an in-depth description of the process of observational learning and the influence of the social, environmental and technological factors on the process. According to the Bobo doll experiment, it is evident that observational learning occurs during the childhood stage of life-span development.

During this stage, the child uses his or her sense of sight to absorb and accommodate new experiences and ideas from the surroundings. Therefore, observational learning has proven to be effective in shaping the learning process in human beings and animals. It is therefore imperative to integrate the observational learning concepts in day-to-day human practices thereby resulting into improved outcomes at the end.

Reference List

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of aggressions through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. Vol. 63, pp. 575–582.

Galef, B.G. & Laland, K.N. (2005). Social learning in animals: Empirical studies and theoretical models. Bioscience. Vol. 55, pp. 489-499.

Zentall, T.R. (2006). Imitation: Definitions, evidence and mechanisms. Animal Cognition. Vol. 9, issue 4, pp. 335-353.

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