Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory, which is also referred to as Observational Learning, is the idea that people had the ability to learn information and behaviors by watching others. Bandura discovered that there were three basic models of observational learning: a live model, where an individual demonstrates or acts out a behavior, a verbal instructional model, which involves descriptions and explanations of behavior, and a symbolic model, which occurs when behaviors are displayed by characters in books or films. .
Perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development, social learning is effective and successful through attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention requires the learner to be focused, as distractions can negatively affect observational learning. Retention is a crucial component because the learner must be able to store information. Extracting the information and being able to act on it is equally important. Next comes reproduction where the learner must perform the learned behavior. The more the behavior is practiced the more it will improve. Lastly, one must be motivated to imitate the modeled behavior. .
Reinforcement plays a vital role in motivation. Experiencing motivators and observing others experience some form of reinforcement can be very effective. Reinforcement can be external or internal and positive or negative. Children experience external reinforcement when they seek approval from others and internal reinforcement when they feel happy about being approved of. Because they desire approval, children will behave in ways that will earn approval. Role models respond to imitated behaviors with either reinforcement or punishment. When a behavior leads to rewarding consequences, a child will continue to perform that behavior thereby making it reinforced. .
Observational learning relies on a strong role model who can demonstrate a preferred attitude or behavior.