[Home]   PSY 101    [Psychology Images]    Learning III: Observational Learning

                      BanduraObservational Learning (Albert Bandura)
  • An organism's responding is influenced by observing or watching other organisms behave (whom we call "models")
    • Links behavior with its consequences. Thus, the witness learns about how the behavior and its results are connected.
  • Hence, experience that shapes behavior can be vicarious (that is, via watching what happens) as well as direct
  • Albert Bandura (see photo on right)
  • Components of Observational Learning
    • Attention: must watch what happens and what are the consequences
    • Retention: must be able to store a memory of what was witnessed
    • Reproduction: must be able to translate stored memory into the same behavior
    • Motivation: must have a motivation or reason to perform the behavior
Examples below show the types of situations in which one person observes another and may learn from it.


Parent & Child

Mother reads to her child

Husband beats his wife

Father responds with concern for child's illness

Car Buy
Buyer & Salesperson

Assertive buyer bargains and receives a good price for a product

Co-Workers & Boss

Co-worker complains to boss by screaming and is fired

Supervisor treats other employees respectfully and is promoted


Guy in group speaks easily with girls at a junior high school dance

Observational Learning and Media Violence


Bandura's "Bobo Doll" Experiments
National Television Violence Study (1994-1997)
        • 61% of TV shows violence
        • 44% of violent actors were the "good guys"
        • 75% of violent actions come without punishment or condemnation
        • 51% of violent actions were shown without resulting pain (i.e., they were sanitized)
Does TV violence promote violence among viewers? Many psychologists in 1970s to 1990s said "yes"
  • correlational studies (comparing violence witnessed on TV with violence acted in real life), and
  • longitudinal studies: children who saw more violence in the 1960s & 1970s were more violent as teenagers & young adults (though not necessarily vice versa)
  • Each night about 350 characters appear on prime time TV and 7 are murdered. At this rate (a death rate of 2% per day), the world's population would be reduced to zero within the course of about 3 years. So? This suggests that the violent world of TV is utterly different than reality.
HOWEVER, national trends are changing. Take a look at these line charts of the murder and violence rates (per 100,000 people) in the United States from 1960 to 2013:

US Murder Rate 1960-2016

US Violent Crime Rate 1960-2016

Violent Video Games & Youth Violence Rates

This page originally posted on 10/14/09 and updated on 02/09/2018