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The phenomenon of learning through observation, through imitation
To explain the acquisition of complex social behavior, the mechanisms of respondent and operant learning were not enough. In search of an answer, they began to attach paramount importance to a special type of learning - visual learning, or learning through observation.
A. Bandura (born in 1925) calls this method of learning socially cognitive, respectively, the theory of social learning is socially cognitive. Cognitive learning implies a much greater learner activity; we can say that the individual becomes a learner. He monitors the consequences of his actions, notices and remembers which of them were successful in their results, and which are useless or harmful. Moreover, learning does not necessarily require direct participation in any act, it is enough to be an observer of the behavior of the model (a person whose behavior pattern is subsequently reproduced). In this case, a person can rely on the visible consequences of someone else's action: get information and adjust their own behavior. Observation creates a “behavioral predisposition” to a certain form of behavior, a cognitive mode of action. Following the behavior of the model is based on encoded information.
The study of the conditions of socialization of aggression is one of the key topics of the theory of social learning. The concept of socialization is extremely broad and multifaceted, each culture has its own requirements for the skills and qualities of a competent member of society. However, some types of behavior play a more general, universal role - this is prosocial behavior (cooperation, mutual assistance, altruism), gender-role behavior, acceptable forms of aggression. Learning these aspects of life is absolutely essential in any community.
A. Bandura conducted laboratory and field studies of child and youth aggression. So, in a series of experimental studies, films of four-year-old children were shown films containing violent behavior patterns that had different consequences for the model (reward or punishment). The adult thrashed his inflatable rubber doll with his fists, uttered rude remarks at her, then he was awarded (treated with chocolate) or scolded. After the film, children were given the opportunity to play on their own with those toys that were involved in the film. The results showed that in children who watched a film with an aggressive sample, the level of aggressive behavior shown then was higher and maximum if they watched a film with a reward of an adult model.
In the framework of manipulative experimental studies, the influence of various characteristics of the model (independent variable) on the behavior of the child (dependent variable) was studied. Varying the characteristics of the model (its gender, age, ethnicity, credibility, involvement in power and money, etc.) revealed a number of factors that influence the behavioral strategies of observer subjects.
Reinforcement is necessary to maintain the behavior that has arisen on the basis of imitation. Direct external reinforcement of behavior in the past has an incentive and informative function. Bandura emphasizes the similar role of indirect reinforcement (i.e., observing the reward of the model) and self-reinforcement (positive assessment of one's own behavior). Thus, while Skinner’s radical behaviorism claims that behavior is explained in terms of incentives and reinforcing consequences, then from the perspective of Bandura it is necessary to talk about the mutual determinism of external situational factors of behavior (such as encouragement and punishment) and internal cognitive (expectations, beliefs, self-perception).
Observation of the model allows us to conclude what behavior is correct and what consequences it can lead to, but the simulation mechanism is insufficient to explain the learning of many complex behavioral acts (riding a bicycle, performing surgical operations).
Bandura took into account the objection about the impossibility of learning a new behavioral act, only by observing. In his basic essay
“The theory of social learning” he includes in the “S - R” scheme four intermediate processes necessary to explain how the imitation of the model leads to the formation of a new behavioral act in the subject1. The components of learning through observation are the processes of attention, conservation, motor reproduction and motivation.
Attention and understanding of the model are determined by:
- the properties of the model (social characteristics, manifestations of prestige, competence, personal attractiveness);
- characteristics of the pattern of actions (functional value, novelty, entertainment);
- sensory abilities, perceptual attitudes and motives of the observer himself, associated with previous reinforcements.
2. Saving, remembering the model is carried out through figurative and verbal coding, cognitive organization.
3. Motor-reproductive processes include the translation of information symbolically encoded in memory into appropriate actions into real behavior. These precisely balanced movements can and should be learned: physical abilities, feedback accuracy are taken into account.
4. Motivational processes determine whether the transition from observation to reproducing the model in real behavior takes place, which is associated with the nature of the variables of reinforcement (external reinforcement, indirect reinforcement, self-reinforcement).
The theory of social learning (socio-cognitive theory) A. Bandury
The main subject of research: The problem of socialization, the processes of social learning: conditions and mechanisms
Research methods Manipulation experiment, laboratory and field studies of behavioral models
Key concepts Social learning, cognitive variables, imitation, abstract modeling,
creative modeling, direct and indirect reinforcement, mutual determinism of factors,
self-reinforcement, self-regulation, self-efficacy
Key ideas - Intermediate cognitive variables are included in the “S — R” basic design
- Observation creates a cognitive course of action (“behavioral predisposition”)
to a certain form of behavior, which is implemented depending on the nature of reinforcement
- Continuous interaction of human behavior, situational and personality factors
Development factors Social factor, learning through observation and internal cognitive factors
(expectations, self-perception, etc.)
Valuable - Attracting attention to the conditions and methods of parenting in the family and the media
information as a process of modeling child behavior
- Stimulating a range of empirical studies of behavior and aspects
Areas of criticism Underestimation of a number of factors influencing development (for example, children's ability to learn
due to natural interest)
Little is taken into account the influence of stages of cognitive development (in the understanding of Piaget) on the modeling process.
Bandura describes several types of socio-cognitive learning that are different in complexity. A simple imitation (imitation, copying) of the model provides the “transfer” of specific actions (treat with treats, welcome at the meeting). By way of abstract modeling, I observer designs his own behavior that goes beyond concrete patterns. Abstract modeling is based on conscious thinking, when the observer extracts common features from outwardly different reactions and establishes principles, formulates rules. So a certain style of behavior, speech can be built (to be friendly, sociable person or persistent, aggressive, ruthless). The most complex type of social learning - creative modeling - includes elements of creativity as a result of an innovative synthesis of various sources of influence.
Since the mid-1980s, A. Bandura pays more and more attention to internal factors of development (self-esteem, self-regulation, success), offers a cognitive mechanism of self-efficacy to explain the functioning and change of personality, although modeling continues to be an important topic of his work.
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The phenomenon of learning through observation, through imitation
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