Elements of Observational Learning:

According to Bandura, there are 4 elements that account for observational learning. All must occur for learning to take place. These 4 elements are; attention, retention, reproduction and motivation-reinforcement. (
All these elements form part of the process of observational learning and are essential if observational learning is to occur.

- Attention: In order to learn through observation, we must pay attention or closely watch the models behaviour. If we do not attend to the models behaviour, we will not recognise it's distinctive features. Attention processes determine what is selective observed from the abundance of modelling influences and what information is extracted from such exposure.
  • May be influenced by sensory capabilities of observer, the situation, distracters present and characteristics of model.
  • The more similarity between the model and the learner, and the more attractive or successful the model, the more we are likely to follow their example.
In example with Bandura’s experiment with the BoBo Doll (1965): The children paid attention (watched) the models aggressive behaviour.

- Retention: Having observed the model we must be able to remember the models behaviour. Retention processes, concern the symbolic coding and retention of knowledge about activities that have been modelled at one time or another.
  • Learner mentally represent and retains what has been observed.
  • The more meaningful we make the mental images, the more accurately we will be able to replicate behaviour.
In example with Bandura’s experiment with the BoBo Doll (1965): The children had retained in memory with what they had seen.

- Reproduction: When the models behaviour has been closely attended to and retained in memory, we can now attempt to imitate (reproduce) what has been observed.
  • Depending on physical capabilities, the learner converts the symbolic mental representations into actions.
In example with Bandura’s experiment with the BoBo Doll (1965): The reproduced (physically performed) the modelled behaviours.

- Motivation-Reinforcement: The learner must also be motivated to perform the behaviour. Motivational processes relate to the greater likelihood of observers exhibiting modelled behaviour if it results in valued outcomes (reinforcement) than if it has unrewarding effects (punishment).
  • Unless we have an incentive, it is unlikely we will want to learn it in the first place, let alone perform it.
In example with Bandura’s experiment with the BoBo Doll (1965): When offered positive reinforcement (reward) many of the children were more motivated to imitate the observed behaviour.

With Motivation- Reinforcement, Bandura suggests that there are three aspects to it; external reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement.
  1. External reinforcement: Obtain a reinforcer, we are more likely to engage in behaviour (learning by consequences).
  2. Vicarious reinforcement: Observed a modelled behaviour being reinforced, we are more likely to model behaviour.
  3. Self-reinforcement: We are reinforced by meeting certain standards or goals of performance we set for ourselves.