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Observational learning study concerning some factors in imitation and identifications Young, Jean Carol

Abstract

This study was designed to investigate some features of the stimulus in observational learning which might be used to make a distinction between imitation and identification on an experimental level. The effective stimulus in imitation was considered to be the behavioral task of the model, or "the specific behavioral event" whereas in identification it was defined as general personality characteristics such as status, goodness, or intelligence which are generalized over time from numerous imitative habits to elicit a more global long-term response. On a pre-test, six year olds and nine year olds were shown two symbolic models simultaneously (an imitation model and an identification model) and were asked to perform the task that the models had done (color a picture) to assess their tendency towards similarity to one or the other (by copying one model's picture more than the other); that is, to attempt to identify with or to imitate the models. During the experimental phase, each of the two age groups were divided in to two experimental treatment groups. For one experimental group the effective stimulus in the identification model was emphasized and for the other the effective stimulus in the imitation model was emphasized. It was predicted that such a procedure would alter or strengthen the predominant response. Later, a post-test was administered to see if the alteration or strengthening of the response was stable or if it had occurred only during the experimental phase, For the most part, it was found that six year olds imitated while nine year olds identified in the pre-test. However, the experimental manipulations seemed to be most effective with the six year olds. As well, the effective stimuli used to differentiate identification and imitation had a significant effect on the children throughout the study, confirming the position that the two responses could he differentiated on the basis of the stimuli which evoke them. Some methological problems in carrying out observational learning studies are discussed.

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