The Concept of Learning
Learning can be defined as a collection of procedures, techniques and outcomes that bring about changes in organism’s behavior, it also involves experiences that can be of permanent change to the learner. Learning can also be conscious or unconscious. As shown by the aspect of observational learning, its conscious when learning to do something e.g. recite a poem or listening to the words in a song. It becomes unconscious when the action is mastered and becomes second to nature such as driving and swimming.
Observational learning takes place when we watch and study the actions of others. Using the bobo experiment by Albert Bandura is a clear indicator of how other beings especially children can imitate what they see. In this experiment they are an imitator to what they say the adult doing. Observational learning strikes one or the imitator to be something of interest and the fact that the imitator can carry out the action as depicted. The children when given the chance and with the ability of motor skill were able to exactly do what had been done earlier. In this case the mirror neurons come in handy as they reflect the activity that has taken place. By the act of yelling ‘Pow!’ and ‘kick him!’ were ways of getting the children’s attention. The aspect of attention is very vital as this is the only way that the moral neurons are able to reflect back the activities. The motor aspect of kicking by the model adult is clearly shown when the children start kicking and throwing the doll. The children did not practice what they saw with any other kind of toy, but that of bobo doll. This shows the magnitude in which we mirror activities and specifically the activities that allow us to use the very same items or ideas. It also shows the coordination of activities, in this case a plastic mallet and a bobo doll is equal to hitting, pushing and throwing. By the act of observation the children were able to contemplate what was required of them by the fact of existence of the objects (Dimitrova, 2009).
It therefore goes hand in hand with Bandura’s idea that for one to have observational learning, a degree of attention to the behavior, motor skills and also the motivation to do so is required. The children in this experiment watched from a distance what was taking place and when later given the chance to have the Bobo doll utilized the degree of observation that they had earlier given. The participants in order to do as seen must have the motor skill to do so. Therefore these children having had the skills to hit, push and throw were good imitators. It goes to show that if children who lacked the motor skills were presented with this observation they would not have done as they saw due to lack of either hands or legs. The motivation in order to qualify for observational learning exists to an extent. The motivation is boosted to the fact that it’s an adult doing so and they therefore see it as being right, as they are conscious of the consequences. When they saw the model being praised for aggressive behavior they showed increased aggression while as the model was punished the children showed considerably less aggression (Smith, 2007).
Mirror neurons play a role in observational learning as they reflect what we see and after a series of repeated actions we are able to anticipate what is required of us. In the case of mirror, mirror in my brain, the monkeys among other animals inclusive of human beings have the capability to copy activities. This is a clear case of observational learning. Children while growing up tend to copy what they parents or guardians do. It is by repeated activities that the mirror neurons are able to coordinate our actions as we have inferred something about that person’s goals, wishes and desires. In an example, children learn how to feed themselves by use of spoons or any other means from what they see. A child will grasp the spoon and try to imitate what the parent does by scooping the food and directing it to its mouth. The results may be a little off and slow, tedious and a process of trial and error but after awhile the process becomes second to nature (Schacter, pp. 245). By the use of mirror neurons, one can have the onset of phobias even when one is not exposed to such an experience. This is because of studying the fears of others and mirroring them to oneself.
A personal experience was watching my family while growing up. Repeatedly my father would pick me up from school and drive us home. He would have a look at the fuel meter after putting on his seat belt. I constantly watched him drive and change the gears. This became my starting point of driving at a tender age of seven years. I would sit behind the steering wheel and make car noises while trying to shift gears, placing my hand on the co-drivers seat and turning my head and imitating that I could do a reverse. I always knew what my father would do and having taken over the co-drivers seat, it became natural that I would foretell what his next action would be. These are the same traits that I carry today years after I started imitating my father.