Processes Governing Observational Learning

Bandura (1986) recognizes four processes that govern observational learning: attention, representation, behavioral production, and motivation.

Attention Before we can model another person, we must attend to that person. What factors regulate attention? First, because we have more opportunities to observe individuals with whom we frequently associate, we are most likely to attend to these people. Second, attractive models are more likely to be observed than unattractive ones are—popular figures on television, in sports, or in movies are often closely attended. Also, the nature of the behavior being modeled affects our attention—we observe behavior that we think is important or valuable to us.

Representation In order for observation to lead to new response patterns, those patterns must be symbolically represented hi memory. Symbolic representation need not be verbal, because some observations are retained hi imagery and can be summoned in the absence of the physical model. This process is especially important in infancy when verbal skills are not yet developed.

Verbal codhig, however, greatly speeds the process of observational learning. With language we can verbally evaluate our behaviors and decide which ones we wish to discard and which ones we desire to try. Verbal coding also helps us to rehearse the behavior symbolically: that is, to tell ourselves over and over agahi how we will perform the behavior once given the chance. Rehearsal can also entail the actual performance of the modeled response, and this rehearsal aids the retention process.

Behavioral Production After attending to a model and retaining what we have observed we then produce the behavior, hi converting cognitive representations hito appropriate actions, we must ask ourselves several questions about the behavior to be modeled. First we ask, "How can I do this?" After symbolically rehearsing the relevant responses, we try out our new behavior. While performing, we monitor ourselves with the question, "What am I doing?" Finally, we evaluate our performance by asking, "Am I dohig this right?" This last question is not always easy to answer, especially if it pertahis to a motor skill, such as ballet dancing or platform diving, in which we cannot actually see ourselves. For this reason, some athletes use video cameras to help them acquire or improve their motor skills.

Motivation Observational learning is most effective when learners are motivated to perform the modeled behavior. Attention and representation can lead to the acquisition of learning, but performance is facilitated by motivation to enact that particular behavior. Even though observation of others may teach us how to do something, we may have no desire to perform the necessary action. One person can watch another use a power saw or run a vacuum cleaner and not be motivated to try either activity. Most sidewalk superintendents have no wish to emulate the observed construction worker.

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