Passing by a specialty bakery shop, I am always amazed at how creative the cake and pastry decorators could be. One goodie that attracted my attention is this fruity cup. I asked the guy behind the stand if he created it. Yes, he replied, though he added that he just did it out of necessity to fill up the display case. The regular decorator was on vacation. Was he taught how to do it? No, he just got to observe the process many times. When the window of opportunity opened, he just went on to make the cup guided by memories of his observations.
Learning by observation, learning from modeling, or vicarious learning: Albert Bandura proposed that people can learn without going thru a behavioral experience. They just need to be able to see the action and if it is something relevant to the observer, the information will be absorbed and it will guide future behavior.
Bandura's framework for learning follows four steps: first, the learner must pay attention to the target behavior; second, the learner must retain the information gathered from the observation; third, when the opportunity arises, the learner must reproduce the behavior. Contingent to engaging in the target behavior, the learner must have the motivation to reproduce the behavior.
Factors that enhance replicating the model's behavior consist of: the level of interpersonal attractiveness of the model to the learner, the importance of the target behavior to the learner and the observed positive outcome from the behavior. As applied in the work place, observing a veteran worker's behavior on a targeted task can supply a new employee the information needed to execute the same behavior in the future. It helps if the model is viewed positively by the learner and that a rewarding outcome follows the behavior.