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Observational learning: Some new examples

Observational learning: Some new examples

Observational learning may be psychology’s easiest concept for students to understand, although students may not appreciate the range of areas where observational learning takes place. Here are some examples to help your students see the ubiquity of observational learning.

Example 1: Utah’s 2020 governor’s race video

Chris Peterson (Democrat) and Spencer Cox (Republican) were both running for Utah governor. They created a video that models how two people can disagree politically but still have civil discourse. Their goal was to model civility. The candidates were interviewed on Today about their video.

Example 2: Learning fear from parents

In this experimental research, children learned fear by watching their parents show fear.

Example 3: Otters learn from each other

Researchers “gave select otters clear containers filled with meatballs and found that when one otter learned how to open the container, its friends subsequently learned how to open it more quickly.”

Example 4: Crows learn from each other

In a now-famous experiment on crow learning, crows who were captured and banded by researchers wearing a caveman mask were very unhappy with anyone wearing a caveman mask. “Even after going for a year without seeing the threatening human, the crows would scold the person on sight, cackling, swooping and dive-bombing in mobs of 30 or more.” But researchers didn’t capture and band all of those birds. The birds learned by watching others.

Example 5: Dogs learn from each other

The story of Saint Bernards as rescue dogs alone is worth reading this article written by psychologist Stanley Coren. Anyone who has added a second (or third, or…) dog to their family has watched as the new dog learned the ropes (both good and bad behaviors) from the resident dog(s). I’ve been relying on my current dog(s) to teach the newcomers how to be dogs since 1995. I can’t imagine doing house training from scratch any more. The resident dog urinates and defecates outside, so the newcomer quickly learns to do the same.

If you’d like to use this a basis for discussion ask your students for their own examples of observational learning—or ask students to cull the Internet for other non-human animal examples. Examples will likely be most prevalent in animal species that are more social.

Source: macmillan psych community