Observational learning is an important area in the field of psychology and behavior science more generally. Given this, it is essential that behavior analysts articulate a sound theory of how behavior change occurs through observation. This paper begins with an overview of seminal research in the area of observational learning, followed by a consideration of common behavior analytic conceptualizations of these findings. The interbehavioral perspective is then outlined, shedding light on some difficulties with the existing behavior analytic approaches. The implications of embracing the interbehavioral perspective for understanding the most complex sorts of behavior, including those involved in observational learning are considered.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alvero, A. M., & Austin, J. (2004). The effects of conducting behavioral observations on the behavior of the observer. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37, 457–468.
Baer, D. M., Peterson, R. F., & Sherman, J. A. (1967). The development of imitation by reinforcing similarity to a model. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 10, 405–416.
Baer, D. M., & Sherman, J. A. (1964). Reinforcement control of generalized imitation in young children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1, 37–49.
Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 589–595.
Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Oxford, England: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A., Grusec, J. E., & Menlove, F. L. (1966). Observational learning as a function of symbolization and incentive set. Child Development, 37, 499–506.
Bandura, A, & Huston, A. C. (1961). Identification as a process of incidental learning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 311–318.
Bandura, A., & Jeffrey, R. W. (1973). Role of symbolic coding and rehearsal processes in observational learning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 122–130.
Bandura, A., & McDonald, F. J. (1963). Influence of social reinforcement and the behavior of models in shaping children’s judgment. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 274–281.
Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575–582.
Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1963). Vicarious reinforcement and imitative learning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 601–607.
Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.
Biederman, G. B., Robertson, H. A., & Vanayan, M. (1986). Observational learning of Two visual discriminations by pigeons: A within-subjects design. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 46, 45–49.
Bruzek, J. L., & Thompson, R. H. (2007). Antecedent effects of observing peer play. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 327–331.
Catania, A. C. (2007). Learning, interim 4th edition. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.
Clayton, M. C., Hayes, L. J., & Swain, M. A. (2005). The nature and value of scientific system building: The case of interbeha-viorism. The Psychological Record, 55, 335–359.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Fryling, M. J., & Hayes, L. J. (2009). Psychological constructs and events: An alliance with Smith. The Psychological Record, 59, 133–142.
Gladstone, B. W., & Cooley, J. (1975). Behavioral similarity as a reinforcer for preschool children. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 23, 357–368.
Greer, R. D., Keohane, D., Meincke, K., Gautreaux, G., Pereira, J. A., Chavez-Brown, M., & Yuan, L. (2004). Key instructional components of effective peer tutoring for tutors, tutees, and peer observers. In D. J. Moran & R. W. Malott (Eds.), Evidence-based educational methods (pp. 295–334). New York: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Greer, R. D., & Ross, D. E. (2008). Verbal behavior analysis: Inducing and expanding complex communication in children with severe language delays. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Greer, R. D., & Singer-Dudek, J. (2008). The emergence of conditioned reinforcement from observation. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 89, 15–29.
Greer, R. D., Singer-Dudek, J., & Gautreaux, G. (2006). Observational learning. International Journal of Psychology, 41(6), 486–499.
Greer, R. D., Singer-Dudek, J., Longano, J., & Zrino, M. (2008). The emergence of praise as conditioned reinforcement as a function of observation in preschool and school age children. Revista Mexicana de Psicologia, 25(1), 5–26.
Greer, R. D., & Speckman, J. (2009). The integration of speaker and listener responses: A theory of verbal development. The Psychological Record, 59, 449–488.
Hayes, L. J. (1992a). Equivalence as process. In S. C. Hayes & L. J. Hayes (Eds.), Understanding verbal relations (pp. 97–108). Reno, NV: Context Press.
Hayes, L. J. (1992b). The psychological present. The Behavior Analyst, 15, 139–145.
Hayes, L. J., & Fryling, M. J. (2009). Overcoming the pseudo-problem of privacy in the analysis of behavior. Behavior & Philosophy, 37, 39–57.
Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (Eds.) (2001). Relational Frame Theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Plenum.
Hayes, S. C., Kohlenberg, B. S., & Melancon, S. M. (1989). Avoiding and altering rule-control as a strategy of clinical intervention. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 359–385). New York: Plenum.
Hayes, S. C., Zettle, R. D., & Rosenfarb, I. (1989). Rule following. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 191–220). New York: Plenum.
Home, P. J., & Erjavec, M. (2007). Do infants show generalized imitation of gestures? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 87, 63–87.
Home, P. J., & Lowe, C. F. (1996). On the origins of naming and other symbolic behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 65, 185–241.
Kantor, J. R. (1921). Association as a fundamental process of objective psychology. The Psychological Review, 28(6), 385–424.
Kantor, J. R. (1924). Principles of psychology (I). Chicago: The Principia Press.
Kantor, J. R. (1947). Problems of physiological psychology. Chicago: The Principia Press.
Kantor, J. R. (1957). Constructs and events in psychology: Philosophy: Banished and recalled. The Psychological Record, 7, 55–60.
Kantor, J. R. (1977). Psychological linguistics. Chicago: The Principia Press.
Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Lowenkron, B. (1998). Some logical functions of joint control. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 69, 327–354.
Meyers, W. A. (1970). Observational learning in monkeys. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 14, 225–235.
Miguel, C. F., Petursdottir, A. I., Carr, J. E., & Michael, J. (2008). The role of naming in stimulus categorization by preschool children. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 89, 383–405.
Moore, J. W., & Fisher, W. W. (2007). The effects of videotape modeling on staff Acquisition of functional analysis methodology. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 197–202.
Morris, E. K., Higgins, S. T., & Bickel, W. K. (1982). The influence of Kantor’s interbehavioral psychology on behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 5, 158–173.
Parrott, L. J. (1983a). Similarities and differences between Skinner’s radical behaviorism and Kantor’s interbehavior-ism. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 9(1), 95–115.
Parrott, L. J. (1983b). Systemic foundations for the concept of “private events.” In N. W. Smith, P. T. Mountjoy, & D. H. Ruben (Eds.), Reassessment in psychology: The interbehavioral alternative (pp. 251–268). Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Parrott, L. J. (1986). On the role of postulation in the analysis of inapparent events. In H. W. Reese & L. J. Parrott (Eds.), Behavior science: Philosophical, methodological, and empirical advances (pp. 35–60). Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates
Pear, J. J. (2001). The science of learning. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.
Pierce, D. W., & Cheney, C. D. (2008). Behavior analysis and learning (4th ed.). New York: Psychology Press.
Poppen, R. L. (1989). Some clinical implications of rule-governed behavior. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 325–357). New York: Plenum.
Ramirez, J., & Rehfeldt, R. A. (2009). Observational learning and the emergence of symmetry relations in teaching Spanish vocabulary words to typically developing children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 801–805.
Rehfeldt, R. A., Latimore, D., & Stromer, R. (2003). Observational learning and the formation of classes of reading skills by individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 24, 333–358.
Reiss, D. (1972). Vicarious conditioned acceleration: Successful observational learning of an aversive Pavolovian stimulus contingency. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 18, 181–186.
Rosales-Ruiz, J., & Baer, D. M. (1997). Behavioral cusps: A developmental and pragmatic concept for behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 533–544.
Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Free Press.
Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Knopf.
Smith, N. W. (2006). The interbehavioral field. In B. D. Midgley & E. K. Morris (Eds.), Modern perspectives on J. R. Kantor and interbehaviorism (pp. 87–110). Reno, NV: Context Press.
Smith, N. W. (2007). Events and constructs. The Psychological Record, 57, 169–186.
About this article
Cite this article
Fryling, M.J., Johnston, C. & Hayes, L.J. Understanding Observational Learning: An Interbehavioral Approach. Analysis Verbal Behav 27, 191–203 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03393102
- observational learning
- interbehavioral psychology
- stimulus substitution
- rule-governed behavior