What is the difference between observational learning and operant conditioning theory?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The major difference between these two is that one is experienced directly whereas the other is only experienced vicariously, or through observation.

In operant conditioning, a person's behavior is affected by reinforcements and punishments that the person experiences him or her self.  The person behaves a certain way and then observes the responses of others to that behavior.  The other people's responses help to shape the first person's behavior.

In observational learning, a person's behavior is influenced by what happens to other people when they behave in certain ways.  The person who is learning does so by seeing responses are elicited by others' behaviors.  The person then bases his or her behavior on the lessons learned by watching what happens to the other people.

Yojana_Thapa's profile pic

Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Operant conditioning- Behavior that operates on the environment, producing consequences. (your actions are associated with consequences) Actions followed by reinforces (a stimulus that strengthens or weakens the behavior that produced it) increase; those followed by punishers decrease.

Observational learning-  People can learn without actually experiencing something. We can learn by watching others through what’s called observational learning. Observational learning is learning by observing others or learning without direct experience or our own. Also called social learning.

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