Observational Learning & Operant Conditioning
Written Report

Prepared by: Jessa Wenica C. Pallomina BBTE IV – 1D

Prepared for: Dr. Milagrina A. Gomez Dean, College of Education

one must separate the degree to which behavioral similarity results from (a) predisposed behavior. Heyes (1993) distinguished imitation and non-imitative social learning in the following way: imitation occurs when animals learn about behavior from observing conspecifics. The monkey performed a different method and finally succeeded after trial and error. the learner may observe an unwanted behavior and the subsequent consequences. Psychologists have been particularly interested in the form of observational learning known as imitation and in how to distinguish imitation from other processes. For example. a young killer whale might become interested in playing with a sea lion pup after watching other whales toss the sea lion pup around. but rather the killer whale became intrigued after observing other whales play with the pup. (c) attention drawn to a place or object. Riopelle. Increased interest in an object may result in object manipulation. Stimulus Enhancement . For example. (d) learning about the way the environment works. (1960) found that monkeys did better with observational learning if they saw the "tutor" monkey make a mistake before making the right choice. A. After the killer whale became interested. To successfully make this distinction. Goal Emulation-Individuals are enticed by the end result of an observed behavior and attempt the same outcome but with a different method. Observational learning is presumed to have occurred when an organism copies an improbable action or action outcome that it has observed and the matching behavior cannot be explained by an alternative mechanism. a young dolphin learning the location of a plethora of fish by staying nears its mother. For example. and thus learn to refrain from that behavior. stuck its arm into a wooden chute. then its interactions with the sea lion resulted in behaviors that provoked future foraging efforts. which facilitates new object-related behaviors by trial-and-error learning. In this case. whereas non-imitative social learning occurs when animals learn about the environment from observing others.Individuals become interested in an object from watching others interact with it (Spence 1937). Haggerty (1909) devised an experiment in which a monkey climbed up the side of a cage.J. the killer whale may develop foraging behaviors appropriate to such prey.Observational Learning Compared To Imitation Observational learning differs from Imitation in that it does not require a duplication of the behavior exhibited by the model. the killer whale did not learn to prey on sea lions by observing other whales do so. After playing with the pup. For example. Another monkey was provided an opportunity to obtain the food after watching a monkey go through this process on four separate occasions.Individuals learn about their environment with a close proximity to other individuals that have more experience. (b) increased motivation resulting from the presence of another animal. as distinguished from what we think of as (e) imitation (the copying of the demonstrated behavior) (Zentall 2012). . Observational learning Tomasello (1999) described various ways of observational learning without the process of imitation in animals: Exposure. For example. and pulled a rope in the chute to release food.

This type of observation is not passive. Another example is seen in the immersion. In doing so they learn to value observation and the skill-building it affords them because of the value it holds within their community. Observational learning across cultures Cultural variation can be seen in the extent of information learned or absorbed by children through the use of observation and more specifically the use of observation without verbal requests for further information. reinforcing peer models involved. Performance is enhanced when children are positively instructed on how they can improve a situation and where children actively participate alongside a more skilled person. Scaffolding refers to an expert responding contingently to a novice so the novice gradually increases their understanding of a problem. parents. while still engaging with other community members without being distracted. The heightened value towards observation allows children to multi-task in actively engage in simultaneous activities. They are seen as contributors themselves and therefore they learn to observe multiple tasks being completed at once and can learn to complete a task. because children integrate in adult activities. Guided participation refers to an expert actively engaging in a situation with a novice so the novice participates with or observes the adult to understand how to resolve a problem. into the adult world and the effects it has on observational learning and the ability to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. Although individuals go through four different stages for observational learning: attention. . One of the most important ongoing stages for observational learning. Examples of this are scaffolding and guided participation. The exposure to an uncensored adult lifestyle incorporating children allows them to observe and learn the different skills and practices that are valued in their communities. this does not simply mean that when an individual's attention is captured that it automatically sets the process in that exact order. is motivation and positive reinforcement. production. For example. retention. children from Mexican heritage families tend to learn and make better use of information observed during classroom demonstration then European heritage children. Observational opportunities tend to be more prominent in indigenous communities. and motivation. and siblings completing tasks and learn to participate in them as they grow. This might be due to children in these communities having the opportunity to see a task being completed by their elders or peers and then trying to emulate the task.Peer model influences Observational learning is very beneficial when there are positive. especially among children. Indigenous Communities of the Americas Children observe elders. but reflects the child's intent to participate or learn within a community. of children in some Indigenous communities of the Americas.

based on developmental age (24 or 36 months). Children in communities such as the Mazahua in Mexico are known to intensely observe ongoing activities. This group of researchers set out to consider whether or not children with low-functioning autism are able to learn through observation only. The framework of learning how to weave through observation can serve as a model that particular members or groups within a society use as a reference to guide their actions in particular domains of life. Indigenous parent's teaching styles are shaped by their influence with western schooling. They used two groups. compared to the fathers with higher levels of education who structured a discussion. where observational learning is expected and may be more inherent to some cultures more than others. given the difference of the education levels of mothers. which the children tried to get. children aged four to nine diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a control group of children. All four groups then received different tasks that corresponded to their developmental age. They were then shown a demonstration video twice but were not given the box after the demonstration . those with more years of formal education often prompt children to take turns in learning to solve a problem. Grad-Vincendon. but there are none on observational learning in children with low-functioning autism according to Nadel. while mothers with less education facilitate open ended discussion with the children. which allows observational learning to occur more often. Fagard & Bursztejn (2011). Indigenous communities utilize observational learning by providing more opportunity to incorporate children in everyday life. the amateur weaver moved at their own pace and began when they felt confident. Coulon. This integration of children into everyday life can be seen in some Mayan communities where children are given full access to community events. This study lasted nine days—during which all the children were given the box on the first day and given time to try to get the object out. Within certain indigenous communities a characteristic of observational learning is that people do not typically seek out explanation beyond basic observation because they are competent in learning through observation.Children from indigenous heritage communities and backgrounds learn through observation. In traditional Mayan families. In a similar study among Mayan fathers and children showed that fathers with 0–3 years of education operated through a mix of observation and shared collaboration between adults and children. Children of indigenous heritage communities commonly use contextual cues in their understanding and ideas. Aouka. The task involved a red box that contained candy. Observational Learning and Children with Autism There are not a lot of studies done on the acquisition of knowledge through observation. They further divided each group into two subgroups. a learning strategy that can carry over into adulthood. Canet. In a Guatemalan footloom factory amateur adult weavers observed skilled weavers over the course of weeks without questioning or being given explanations. In a native Northern Canadian and an Indigenous Mayan community children often learn as thirdparty observers to stories and conversations by others.

models. children with autism often display self-stimulatory behaviors that inhibit appropriate behaviors and decrease their ability to learn new behaviors. and could play with an unfamiliar toy in the training sessions by watching a peer model. The authors found that all three autistic-like boys could learn to imitate the peer model. and settings.2. and that they can correct motor representations after previously not being able to do a task. No study before this 1986 work looked at the ability of autistic-like children to learn skills similar to those they learned in training. In the following generalization and maintenance sessions. The researchers noticed that the boys . served as peer models. The second training was the same as the first except that the participant was exposed to both a new peer model and a new toy. generalization in free-play. and good receptive and language skills. The amount of exposure to a modeled play task was the independent variable. the researchers were looking to determine the effect of the observation of peers on appropriate toyplaying skills in autistic-like children. where children played in a room where the ten toys determined in the pretest were present. in the training situation and in a generalization setting. The children of a younger developmental age improved one week later. Six other boys with a mean age chronological age of 4.3 and a mean age of 3. This study strove for insight into the generalization of autistic-like children's skills through observational learning. the participants were only given the box with no video demonstrations to test for observational learning. Participants included three autistic-like boys with a mean chronological age of 4. all the autistic-like boys learned to play with the unfamiliar toy that they had not been trained in. Children with autism improved after the second demonstration only. and the older children improved after only one demonstration. Tryon and Keane (1986) identified the dependent variables as the training task acquisition. They also examined the effects training can have on autistic-like children.to try to get the candy. and was manipulated through additional tasks. This was repeated seven days later. the participant watched a peer (who they did not see in the baseline test) correctly play with a toy.4 and a mean age of 2. Nadel et al. (2011) found that the children who did not have autism showed improvement after the first demonstration. In free play. The authors believe this means that children with autism progress the same as typical children. but take longer to learn.5. by observing a peer in a non-training setting. The following day. They also believe this means that children with autism can form motor representations for a task without prior experience. The researchers argue that the difference in the need for more demonstrations for children with autism was not due to a lack of attention but more as a result of an increased difficulty of creating a motor representation of an action that leads to a remote goal as opposed to an immediate goal. and the frequency of both self-stimulatory behavior and imitative play behaviors. In one study. as well as another peer Two training sessions. Each participant took part in:    A pretest to determine ten different toys that the child did not play with appropriately A baseline test of free play. each followed by a generalization and maintenance condition In the first training session.

Skinner analyzed reinforcing stimuli based on the law of effect. Research has shown that social learning can spread a behavior. The operant conditioning theory is based on Skinner’s experiments with animals. a hungry rat was placed in a box. Skinner uses the term operant behavior to refer to his idea that an organism has to do something in order to get a reward. However. there is a need to distinguish the propagation of behavior and the stability of behavior. The presentation of a positive reinforce increases the likelihood that a particular response will occur. they are almost always more successful after observing another animal doing the same task before them. thus gradually leading the subject to the required performance. The authors suggested that enhanced imitation of play behaviors may have been due to the use of multiple peer models. Experiments have been conducted on several different species with the same effect: animals can learn behaviors from peers. that is. By reinforcement. this time no longer ―accidentally‖ but ―intentionally‖. Other human and animal behavior experiments When an animal is given a task to complete. B. Reinforced thus. Thus. The withdrawal of a negative reinforce will also increase the likelihood of occurrence of a desired response by presenting or withdrawing a positive or a negative reinforcer. skinner refers to any event that increases the probability that a particular response will increase in frequency. His basic premise is that any organism (including man) tends to repeat what it was doing at the time its behavior was reinforced and that the task is a matter of baiting each step of the way. Upon its accidental pressing of a lever in a box.F. but there are more factors regarding how a behavior carries across generations of an animal culture. The reinforcement increases the likelihood of the recurrence of a particular type of response. it was rewarded with a food pellet which served as reinforcement to the pressing behavior. . reinforcement may be positive or negative. Responses may be reinforced by the presentation (positive) or removal (negative) of particular consequences.decreased their self-stimulatory behaviors as a result of the imitative play learned in training. Skinner has shown that basic to operant conditioning is the use of reinforcement. In one of Skinner’s well-known experiments. SKINNER’S THEORY OF OPERANT CONDITIONING Derived from the theory of Thorndike. Reinforcement is defined as any behavioral consequence that strengthens behavior. it must operate on its environment. the rat kept on pressing that bar. Skinner also emphasized the effects of the subject’s action among the causes of behavior.

and shelter). Generalized reinforces can function under more than one set of circumstances through association with more than one primary reinforce (e. Reinforcement increases the rate of responding. Sleep is reinforcing for a sleep-deprived person. These are called primary reinforcers. In primary reinforce. elimination of the reinforcing consequence decreases the rate. approval. Secondary reinforcers or conditioned reinforcers influence behavior through training. Primary and Secondary reinforcers are two types of reinforcement. Food and water also belong to this category of reinforcers. reinforcement is used to prevent the extinction of behavior. and tokens are all secondary reinforcers. The frequency of a selected response is first observed and then made contingent on the response. Their power to reinforce behavior is acquired. There are some reinforcers that are innately reinforcing. Money. congratulations. however. In everyday life then. Attention.. however. drink. Negative reinforcers strengthen behavior by their removal. This will eventually lead to extinction.g. To determine whether a particular event is reinforcing. and peer approval are other types of generalized reinforcers. reinforcement must be made contingent on the execution of appropriate responses. The rate of responding with the added consequences is observed next. grades. This type of reinforcement is done specifically by developing associations with a primary reinforce. Extinction of a learned behavior in this case occurs as a result of its repetition while receiving no further reinforcement. observations are conducted. These reinforcers are not innately reinforcing. This process of extinction may be employed in terminating an undesirable behavior. To be effective in altering behavior. As in classical conditioning. Given the state of deprivation. the selected event is therefore reinforcing. If the response frequency is increased. have a more general influence on behavior. . Positive reinforcers increase response frequency. Other reinforcers. the increase in response rate occurs without training. That means termination of the reinforcing stimulus increases response frequency. Both types of reinforcers are most effective when they immediately follow the responses they are intended to increase.Positive and negative reinforcers influence behaviors in opposite ways. primary reinforcers will alter the probability of responding. a process related to operant conditioning is extinction. Money is a token associated with food. Primary and secondary reinforcers may have the same effectiveness depending on how they are used or managed in the conditioning process. stars. They are powerful in increasing the chance that a particular behavior will occur.

on the other hand. and solving problems. may involve removing TV watching privileges. punishment involves the withdrawal of a positive reinforcer or the addition of a negative reinforcer. Shaping behavior is the acquisition of complex behaviors – such as playing tennis. Shaping is different from behavior modifications that occur with puzzles. . For example. For Skinner. The importance of shaping is that it can generate complex behaviors that do not occur naturally through shaping by a series of contingencies in a program. or the addition of a negative reinforcer could be confining the child to his room. The contribution of Skinner’s theory to learning involves the acquisition of complex behavior through the process of shaping. Emotional predispositions such as guilt or shame may be conditioned through the use of punishment. The test which serves as an aversive stimulus will only reinforce the negative behavior of lying. 3. Presenting an unpleasant event. punishment is not the opposite of reinforcement. Each stage of the program evokes a response and also serves to prepare the organism to respond at some later point. mazes and other Pavlovian tasks. a child may lie to his mother that he is sick so that he can avoid going to school. It does not entail trial and error at random points in the learning process. punishment leads to 3 undesirable effects: 1. The procedure of first reinforcing responses that only resemble the desired response is referred to as reinforcing successive approximations. or removing a pleasant experience.In contrast with reinforcers. Punished responses only disappear temporarily. thus avoiding taking the test. Withdrawal of a positive reinforcer. Any behavior that reduces the aversive stimulation accompanying the punishment will be reinforced. Skinner proposed that in terms of effect. 2. This calls for reinforcing behavior like kicking the ball when the child is just learning how to play soccer.