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Observational Learning

Observational learning refers to learning by observing others in the absence of overt performance by the observer. Models—live, symbolic, in print, or electronic—are common sources of observational learning. Observational learning contrasts with enactive learning, or learning by doing. Observational learning is important because it allows individuals to learn more, and more quickly, than if they had to perform every action at the time of learning. It also allows observers to avoid personally experiencing the negative consequences of behaviors. Although complex skills often require a combination of observational and enactive learning, observers can learn many aspects of skills through observation and then hone the skills through practice. This entry summarizes some historical views of observational learning, a social cognitive theoretical perspective that includes component processes, ...

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