The core of observational learning is modeling. Learning through modeling involves adding and subtracting from the observed behavior and generalizing from one observation to another. In other words, modeling involves cognitive processes and is not simply mimicry or imitation. It is more than matching the actions of another; it involves symbolically representing information and storing it for use at a future tune (Bandura, 1986, 1994).
Several factors determine whether a person will learn from a model in any particular situation. First, the characteristics of the model are important. People are more likely to model high-status people rather than those of low status, competent individuals rather than unskilled or incompetent ones, and powerful people rather than impotent ones.
Second the characteristics of the observer affect the likelihood of modeling. People who lack status, skill, or power are most likely to model. Children model more than older people, and novices are more likely than experts to model.
Third the consequences of the behavior being modeled may have an effect on the observer. The greater the value an observer places on a behavior, the more likely the observer will acquire that behavior. Also, learning may be facilitated when the observer views a model receiving severe punishment; for example, seeing another person receive a severe shock from touching an electric wire teaches the observer a valuable lesson.
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