This is a term in AP Psychology that defines itself: we learn behaviors by observing others. Put another way, we imitate or model those behaviors through our perceptions of others. We might observe a person walk, talk, or do something in a particular way, and then find ourselves doing that very behavior, even when it was not directly taught to us.
Bobo Doll Experiment
Albert Bandura's study
with the Bobo doll 🤡 showed that children who observed an adult being aggressive with an inflatable toy were more likely to show aggressive behaviors later on, compared to those who did not observe aggressive behavior. Successful observational learning has four processes:
1. Attention: One must be focused on the action taking place.
2. Retention: One must be able to recall the action that was observed in order to imitate it.
3. Reproduction: One must have the physical and mental capability 🧠 to complete the activity in order to imitate it.
4. Motivation: One must have a perceived incentive💰 to imitate and complete the behavior.
Image Courtesy of Psychology Reading.
How are we able to mirror someone's actions so easily? We have mirror neurons in the frontal lobe that some researchers believe are responsible for observational learning. With these, the brain fires the same way as the person we are mirroring/watching. Isn't that cool?
Prosocial behavior is exactly what it sounds like: positive, helpful behavior. Modeling good behavior is seen everywhere, especially with parenting. Many parents try to avoid cursing in front of their kids or avoid looking/sounding aggressive, therefore modeling good behavior.
This is the opposite of prosocial behavior. A child may view aggressive or angry behaviors and mirror it.
Un-shaping Negative Behavior Through Punishment
In the event that a child develops negative behavior patterns through antisocial modeling, a parent or authority figure, such as a teacher, may try using one of a few broadly defined behavior shaping techniques. Punishments are ways to un-shape, if you will, bad behavior patterns. These are any type of consequence for an action that decreases the undesired behavior. There are two categories of punishments: positive punishments and negative punishments.
Positive punishments occur when an unwanted consequence is given for negative behavior. An example of this would be the use of speeding tickets. If Dan is caught speeding and is given a ticket, he is less likely to speed in the future. The positive punishment in this case is the ticket itself.
Negative punishments occur when a desired item or opportunity is removed as a result of bad behavior. An example would be phone restrictions. If seventeen year old Sarah comes home after curfew and her dad takes away her phone as a consequence, Sarah is less likely to miss curfew in the future.
Reshaping Good Behavior Through Reinforcement
Once bad behavior patterns have been un-shaped through punishments, good behavior should be promoted through reinforcement. Similar to punishments, there are both negative and positive reinforcements.
Positive reinforcement is when a desirable stimulus is added as a result for good behavior. An example of this would be praising a child for completing their homework. The positive behavior is completing the homework, and the reinforcement would be praise. Following being praised, the child is more likely to complete their homework.
Negative reinforcement is when an undesirable stimulus is removed as a result of good behavior. This is seen when getting in the car. If the car is turned on before the seatbelt is buckled, more often than not, an alarm chirps. When the seatbelts are buckled, the alarm stops chirping. The good behavior in this situation is buckling the seat belt, which is reinforced by the silencing of the alarm.