In 1963, Albert Bandura and his colleagues Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross conducted an experiment that focused on vicarious reinforcement and imitative learning in children, by testing whether children were more likely to imitate a model that was either rewarded, punished or had no consequence for displaying acts of aggression (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963, p. 601).
Bandura believed that to effectively imitate behaviour, through observational learning, it requires a person’s:
Attention – notice the model’s behaviour,
Retention – remember the behaviour,
Reproduction – be capable of reproducing the model’s behaviour,
Motivation – be motivated to exhibit the behaviour.
(Passer & Smith, 2013, p. 244)
Kest (2005, p. 52) identified that Bandura concentrated on how behaviour was observed and replicated because he believed that social learning occurred through the interaction of personal and environmental factors. This led him to develop the social learning theory (Kest, 2005, p. 52). This theory emphasises that people adopt behaviours through observational learning or direct experience, which can provide an understanding about the expectations of social behaviours (Anderson & Bushman, 2002, p. 31). Bandura (as cited in Brook, 2001, p. 230) stated that according to the social learning theory, children can learn and incorporate aggressiveness into their lives by witnessing and remembering a person displaying those aggressive behaviours.
Zajonc in 1954 found that children chose, as their model for imitation, a leader that was successful in achieving a desirable reward despite the form of behaviour that was exhibited (Bandura et al., 1963, p. 605). Grivas et al. (2010, p. 836) defines reinforcement as anything that increases and decreases the likelihood of a behaviour reoccurring.