Observational Learning Learning by Imitation
196 doing 2 learn Chapter 5 Learning LEARNING BY IMITATION Much of our behavior is learned by imitating others, especially those who serve as role models. To appreciate the impact of social learning in your life, list ﬁve examples of how your own actions, speech, appearance, or mannerisms have come to match those of a parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, or even a celebrity. by instance, a chimp would jump for it several times. Then it would stop jumping, look up, and pace back and forth. Finally it would run over to a wooden crate, place it directly under the fruit, and climb on top of it to reach the fruit. Once, when there were no other objects in the cage, a chimp went over to Köhler, dragged him by the arm until he stood beneath the fruit, and then started climbing up his back! Köhler believed that the only explanation for these results was that the chimpanzees had experienced insight, a sudden understanding of the problem as a whole. Was he right? Possibly, but what Köhler saw as sudden insight might not have been so sudden. Other psychologists found that previous trial-and-error experience with objects, such as boxes and sticks, is necessary for “insight” in chimps (Birch, 1945). In fact, some psychologists argue that all known cases of “insight” include a long history of experience with the objects that are used to solve the problem (Epstein et al., 1984; Wynne, 2004). So although Köhler’s work helped establish the importance of cognitive processes in learning, questions remain about whether it demonstrated true insight. Observational Learning: Learning by Imitation insight A sudden understanding of what is required to solve a problem. observational learning Learning by watching the behavior of others. People and animals learn a lot from personal experience, but they can also learn by observing what others do and what happens to them when they do it (e.g. Akins & Zentall, 1998; Mattar & Gribble, 2005). Learning by watching others—a process called observational learning, or social learning—is efﬁcient and adaptive. We don’t have to ﬁnd out for ourselves that a door is locked or an iron is hot if we have just seen someone else try the door or suffer a burn. Children are particularly inﬂuenced by the adults and peers who act as models for appropriate behavior. In a classic experiment, Albert Bandura showed nursery school children a ﬁlm starring an adult and a large, inﬂatable, bottom-heavy “Bobo” doll (Bandura, 1965). The adult in the ﬁlm punched the Bobo doll in the nose, kicked it, threw things at it, and hit its head with a hammer while saying things like “Sockeroo!” There were different endings to the ﬁlm. Some children saw an ending in which the aggressive adult was called a “champion” by a second adult and rewarded with candy and soft drinks. Some saw the aggressor scolded and called a “bad person.” Some saw a neutral ending in which there was neither reward nor punishment. After the ﬁlm, each child was allowed to play alone with a Bobo doll. The way they played in this and similar studies led to some important conclusions about learning and the role of cognitive factors in it.