As quoted by Albert Bandura (1977, cited infed, 2011) "Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action."
As proposed by the social learning theory, Albert Bandura who is an American psychologist has developed perhaps one of the most influential theories of learning and development. His theory which added a social element, argued that people can learn new information and behaviours by watching other people known as observational learning (or modelling),which is as a type of learning that can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviours.
“Social learning theory 'posits that people learn from observing other people. By definition, such observations take place in a social setting” (Merriam and Caffarella 1991: 134).
In details his theory of social learning composed of three core concepts, the main idea is that through observation people develops a learning process. Secondly he stated that the essential internal mental state of the individual is fundamentally crucial for the process. Finally he added that although an idea had been received and learned by the individual it will not necessary effect the individual behaviour or personalities unless the individual chooses to.
Through Bandura’s famous "Bobo doll" studies, he manages to prove his theory of observational learning by demonstrating children imitation of a controlled behaviour that they have recently been exposed to in the experiment. The children in Bandura’s studies were exposed to a violent behaviour by an adult towards a Bobo doll which resulted with the similar imitation of the aggressive actions towards the doll by the children when they were allowed to play with it.
From the further studies of the children, Bandura managed to identify three basic models of observational learning which are live models, verbal instructional model and symbolic models. A live model involves on actual demonstration of an individual behaviour. A verbal instructional model is involve in an instruction or a descriptive explanation of a behaviour. A symbolic model involves an idol or a fictional characters that displays behaviours in various medias such as books, films, television or online media.
The external, environmental reinforcement may play a big factor in the influence of learning and behaviour but Bandura noted that intrinsic reinforcement as a form of internal reward, such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment plays a bigger role in the learning process. Without the internal mental state of the individual supporting the external influences that the individual receive those behaviours and information observed will not at all affect the individual learning progress. The internal thoughts and cognitions of the individual help connect learning theories to cognitive developmental theories.
The observational learning and modelling process, works in these following steps of Attention, Retention and Reproduction with a little help from Motivation. In order for an individual to fully learn a new observational knowledge one must be dedicated to fully paying attention to the exposure of that knowledge. Any distraction would produce a negative effect and misunderstanding of that knowledge. The individual would then have to have the ability to store this information properly for it’s a vital step in the observational learning process. This step is called retention and can be affected by a number of factors but this step is crucial for the individual in order for him to later on recall those information earlier and act upon it.
The reproduction step of this method of learning is fully depended on the effectiveness of information absorption (attention) and the quality of the information that is retained. The particular information and behaviour learn can also be improved with further practice for an advancement of the skill. In order for a more successful result for an observational learning, motivation should be given towards the particular knowledge of that individual that has been modelled. The reinforcement and punishment towards that particular knowledge and behaviour can be a highly effective motivation, so can observing other experience some type of reinforcement or punishment.
From understanding the importance of an internal mental state role and the modelling process in understanding and learning a new knowledge and behaviour it can be clear to conclude that it will not necessarily change the behaviour of the individual completely. The observational learning demonstrates that the individual may learn new information without demonstrating new behaviours if the individual chooses to.