Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Observational Learning

  • Betsi LittleEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1801-1



Observational learning is the acquisition of new behaviors that occurs when an individual, or observer, watches a model, or actor, perform the target behavior.


Observational learning, also referred to as vicarious or social learning or modeling, is learning that occurs from watching another actor perform the behavior. This theory of learning was first presented by Albert Bandura (1965) and was in stark contrast to the behavioral movement which emphasized the role of first-hand experience of reinforcement in learning.

Observational Learning involves an individual, or observer, to learning to perform a behavior of a model, or actor. This model has four components, all of which must occur for an observer to learn: attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivation.


“Attentional processes determine what is selectively observed” (Bandura 1977, p. 24). In other words, an individual must first...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National UniversityLa JollaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Catherine Cottrell
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Social SciencesNew College of FloridaSarasotaUSA