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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Observational Learning

     A great deal of learning happens indirectly by watching and imitating others; this is known as observational learning.  Observtional learning is defined as the learning of new behavior by watching the actions from someone else who is doing that behavior. It could be desirable or not. It was discovered by educational psychologist Albert Bandura in 1986.
     Observational learning is not the same as imitation of another behavior. Observational learning occurs as a result of witnessing another person, but is performed later and cannot be explained as having been taught in any other way. This type of learning also encompasses the concept of behavior avoidance as a result of seeing another person behave in a certain way and receive a negative consequence. 

There are four stages: 
Attention – the person notices something 
Retention – the person remembers what was noticed 
Production – the person copies what was noticed 
Motivation - the consequences result in probability the behavior will be tried again or discarded depending on the result 

Some examples of observational learning include: 
  • An infant learns to make and understand facial expressions. 
  • A new employee avoids being late to work after seeing a co-worker fired for being late. 
  • A new car salesperson learns how to approach potential customers by watching other salesmen. 
   Bandura and other researchers demonstrated that we are naturally inclined to engage in observational learning and it is a powerful force even from a very young age. In his experiments Bandura demonstrated that young children would imitate the violent and aggressive actions of an adult model and that children were more likely to imitate the adult's violent actions when the adult either received no consequences or when the adult was rewarded for their violent actions. Children who saw film clips in which the adult was punished for aggressive behavior were less likely to repeat the behaviors. Bandura's research raised a number of important questions like, for example, what is the effect on children who see violence in video games, movies and television. 
     Can observational learning be effective in chess? Alex Yermolinsky in The Road to Chess Improvement, and as he demonstrated in his lectures, used his favorite method of teaching and that was, as he said, by example...e.g. through annotated games. For chess players will observational learning by playing over grandmaster games translate into playing better? Possibly, I think. You would be learning pattern recognition, for example. 
     For some articles on the subject of pattern recognition you can check out some of the articles listed HERE.

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