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Vicarious Reinforcement

  • By: John Malouff & Sally Rooke
  • In: Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology
  • Edited by: Neil J. Salkind
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), Educational Psychology, School Psychology

Vicarious reinforcement occurs when (a) an individual observes another person (a model) behave in a certain way and experience a consequence perceived as desirable by the observer, and (b) as a result, the observer behaves as the model did. For example, suppose a shy child at school observes another student being praised by the teacher for speaking up in class. The observed student is the reinforced model. If the shy child would like to be praised by the teacher and therefore personally speaks up in class in the future, vicarious reinforcement has occurred. Educators commonly use vicarious reinforcement to shape the behavior of students.

Psychologist Albert Bandura popularized the concept of vicarious reinforcement through his theory of human behavior, social cognitive theory (sometimes called social learning ...

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