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Psychologists view learning in terms of thought processes, or cognitions, that underlie it – an approach known as a cognitive learning theory. Furthermore, not denying the importance of classical and operant conditioning, they have focussed on the unseen mental processes that occur during learning, rather than concentrating solely on external stimuli, responses, and reinforcements.
Two types of learning in which no obvious prior reinforcement is present are latent learning and observational learning.
Latent – a new behavior is acquired but is not demonstrated until some incentive is provided for displaying it (Tolman & Honzik, 1930). Moreover, people can develop cognitive maps of their surroundings, an example permits the knowledge of a fast food outlet even though you may have never entered it.
Observational – is learning by watching the behavior of another person or model – a social phenomenon – often referred to as a social-cognitive approach to learning (Bandaura, 1999, 2004). A key point of this approach is that the behavior of models who are rewarded for a given behavior is more likely to be imitated than behavior in which the model is punished for the behavior.
Not only negative behaviors are acquired the operant conditioning technique of shaping is inappropriate. For example, consider piloting an aircraft and performing surgery… no room for trial and error methods without risk to all in the learning process.
Genetics in observational learning may have a basis.
Not all behavior that we witness is learned or carried out. Rewarded behavior for example if we observe a friend being rewarded for putting more time into studies by receiving higher grades, we are more likely to imitate the behavior as opposed to being stressed and tired. These rewarded models are more apt to be mimicked than an alternate punishment. On the other hand, observing punishment does not necessarily stop observers from learning the behavior. It can be seen but they are less apt to perform it (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1994).
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