Observational learning effectiveness as a function of model characteristics: Investigating the importance of social power

Keri Brewer1, Daniel L. Wann1
1Murray State University, United States
Cite this article:  Brewer, K., & Wann, D. L. (1998). Observational learning effectiveness as a function of model characteristics: Investigating the importance of social power. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 26(1), 1-10.

Volume 26 Issue 1 | e903 | Published: February 1998 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1998.26.1.1

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Observational learning is an important component of human learning. According to Bandura (1965), observational learning is characterized by 4 stages: attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivation. The first stage, attention, is a crucial subprocess that can be influenced by model characteristics. Characteristics such as attractive-ness, trustworthiness, similarity, and perceived competence have been shown to enhance a model’s effectiveness. In this study we extended this research to social power. It was hypothesized that observational learning effectiveness would be greater in groups taught by a model with a base of social power than in a control group. A research question examined which base of social power (legitimate, expert, or referent) yielded the greatest effectiveness. Participants watched a tape of a model performing a puzzle task. The model was described as having one of the 3 bases of social power. A fourth group was taught by a model introduced without the mention of a base of social power. The results revealed that those in the power groups scored significantly higher on the variables of time elapsed to complete the puzzle, number of pieces correctly placed, and whether the participant finished or not. Implications for the findings of this study such as the use of social power(s) in a teaching and managerial setting are discussed.


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