Bandura believes that observation allows people to learn without performing any behavior. People observe natural phenomena, plants, animals, waterfalls, the motion of the moon and stars, and so forth; but especially important to social cognitive theory is the assumption that they learn through observing the behavior of other people, hi this respect, Bandura differs from Skinner, who held that enactive behavior is the basic datum of psychological science. He also departs from Skinner hi his belief that reinforcement is not essential to learning. Although reinforcement facilitates learning, Bandura says that it is not a necessary condition for it. People can learn, for example, by observing models being reinforced.
Bandura (1986, 2003) believes that observational learning is much more efficient than learning through direct experience. By observing other people, humans are spared countless responses that might be followed by punishment or by no reinforcement. Children observe characters on television, for example, and repeat what they hear or see; they need not enact random behaviors, hoping that some of them will be rewarded.
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