There are many different ways to learn new skills and processes. Sometimes we study books and movies to find out more about history or people. We take classes to acquire a new skill we can use in everyday life typing or woodworking. All of these methods use some initial reading material or textbook to begin. There is a much more efficient way to learn new things about ourselves. Observational learning has been around for a while, yet not many people use it the way they should. Observational learning can bring new and innovative understandings to us in a way traditional methods cannot.
In a very compact nutshell, observational learning is exactly how it sounds: learning from watching. It became a very widespread type of learning in the late 1970s because of psychologist Albert Bandura. Bandura argued that learning that happens visually without instruction or command. When we are old enough to see and comprehend, we begin to start learning visually without even realizing it. Here’s an article that goes further in-depth on learning visually.
Essentially we learn and pick up on the traits of people around us by purely watching their actions. When we are younger, we watch our parents wave goodbye to each other. Or we see a teenager hold the door for an elderly citizen, resulting in a mutual smile. Everyone makes gestures that define who they are, and it can be an easy way to adjust our lives. The question is, can we learn even more about ourselves if we watch how people live instead of act?
If someone close to us makes a terrible mistake, we now learn the outcome of that mistake. Let’s say our friend goes out with someone and gets extremely attached within the first week. Then a week later, they break up. By watching them live out this scenario, we’ve learned about real relationships and what to look for. Another instance could be with classes if college is still a daily occurrence for us. If one of our friends takes a class we have to take, we can know beforehand about the class. From their stress levels to their workload, watching them can help tremendously.
When we watch people, especially people close to us, we pick up traits that we couldn’t find other places. No book or class can teach us the same things people’s actions can, period.