Bandura (1977) has indentified the following four steps in the process of learning by observation.
1. Giving attention, perceiving the relevant aspects of the behaviour.
2. Remembering the behaviour, either through words or mental images.
3. Converting the mental images into action, and
4. Being motivated to adopt the behaviour.
Factors Influencing Learning:
In the ceaseless process of learning throughout life there must be some significant factors influencing it.
Whichever may be the setup for learning, the following factors are certainly operative, one at least at a time. Without these factors, we cannot think of learning to take place.
We have already emphasized quite strongly on this factor in conditioning particularly.
Observation works in all situations of learning being a prerequisite. In learning to deal with the environment we need primarily •to learn the characteristics of the environment. Only a little is left more to be learnt after learning these characteristics, at least in simple cases. The necessary movements of avoidance or approach are, since already learnt well or even instinctive. When a rat has learned that a tiny noise from the food pan mean food, he has not to learn in addition how to approach the pan.
Knowledge and observation of result deserves a word or two more. You aim a missile at a target, let go and watch the result. If the result shows that you have aimed too high you “lower your sights” and try again. So you learn to take better aim. If you are somehow prevented from, observing the results you will have no guide toward better performance, the practice further will be uninteresting and unprofitable.
The more clearly you perceive the situation and understand the problem the better off you will be for learning what is essential. Any of the factors favoring attention and observation (interest, intensity etc.) will also facilitate quick and appropriate learning.
(ii) Stimulus Patterns:
The sequence of stimulus in a maze is a stimulus pattern. When a rat has thoroughly learned a maze he runs through it with a speed and ease indicative of his readiness each turn before reaching it actually. His performance has though become mechanical; he is still utilizing the cues. The short sequences learned in conditioning experiments depend on ‘temporal contiguity i.e. quick following of one stimulus after the other:
Beside these sequential performances which depend on regular sequences of contiguous stimulus, there are simultaneous combinations of movements of both hands for example, which becomes almost automatic with practice.
(iii) Exercise and Repetition:
Simple acts are sometimes learnt in single trial, but more• complex ones usually require repeated trials and even simple acts are remembered longer if the trials have been repeated. During your introduction to a stranger if you find him interesting and attend closely to your will probably remember the name from this single intense activity. But if you are half-hearted about it you may need several reminders before you are sure of the name.
(vi) Timing of Prepetition:
If the particular learning sit up does not occur again for long time the effect of the first learning will be lost or forgotten. To follow up right away is i9portant if the progress of learning is to be rapid. On the other hand it is possible to crowd the repetitions so close together that the learning is actually impaired. There should be an arbitrary spacing of repetitions appropriate ‘to a task which is being learnt.
We have seen that long-continued routine repetition without sufficient motivation will leave a person on a plateau. Besides knowledge of result is an important factor in improvement. While exercise is necessary for learning even repeated and well timed exercise will not suffice. We have also seen that the conditioned response is established by repetition with reinforcement. Reinforced responses are maintained while the non- reinforced ones are discarded. In maze too the learner eliminates responses which are not reinforced by success. Exercise also may tend to strengthen all the responses but reinforcement is a selective factor.
Reinforcement also implies reward and punishment. The rat is rewarded for taking the correct path through the maze by finding food in the food box. He is punished for entering a blind alley by finding no food there and may be more drastically punished by receiving an electric shock if he afterwards keeps out of that alley he is “rewarded” by avoiding the shock.
Motivation is the strongest factor influencing learning. How far an individual is interested in learning a particular task? If a person is really in need of the learning, he will be supposed to be motivated for it. When a person is highly motivated for learning a particular behaviour least difficulty will hinder. The importance of motives has always been emphasized sufficiently. Usually, the motive involved in learning is not the motive to learn for future use. In human learners, too, the motive is generally aimed at dealing with the present situation and accomplishing immediate results. To obtain food, escape from danger, to win social approval play interesting game or any primary or secondary motive may be the immediate purpose of the learning in view. Whatever the motive, mastery of the present situation require learning and so actually prepare for future.
Exploring and manipulating motives are important for perceptual learning. Other more pressing and insistent needs and motives may be too strong. A hungry animal is so excited at the prospect of food that he plunges straight for the goal without pausing to examine the situation. It is evident that reinforcement depends on motivation. For a hungry animal food is the reward, and finding food in the food box reinforces in choice of the right path through the maze- Obviously if he is not hungry he does not get this reinforcement, though he my observe food and utilize this observation later when hungry.