Effects of vicarious reward on infant observational learning: A deferred imitation study

Mia L Schmitt, Pace University

Abstract

A study of the effects of vicarious reward on infant observational learning was conducted. Thirty-six, 12–16 month old male and female infants were assigned to one of three experimental conditions: Reward, Neutral or Control. Infants in the Reward condition viewed a videotaped segment of an infant peer who was verbally rewarded/praised for performing 5 target acts with study toys. Infants in the Neutral condition viewed a silent presentation of the same videotaped segment. Infants in the Control group did not view a video segment. The number of target acts reproduced by infant subjects, following a 1-week delay, served as the dependent variable. Based on the tenets of Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1986), it was hypothesized that viewing a peer who was rewarded for their behavior would enhance infants' ability and/or proclivity to reproduce the observed behavior. It was anticipated that infant subjects who viewed the target acts would be significantly more likely to produce them than those who did not. Further, infants in the Reward condition were expected to imitate significantly more target acts than infants in both Neutral and Control conditions. Analyses of Variance revealed a significant main effect for condition, F(2, 36) = 3.71, p = .036. Taken together, infants who viewed video segments were not significantly more likely than those who did not to reproduce target behaviors, t = 1.34, p = .191. However, infants in the Reward condition did imitate significantly more target acts than infants in both Neutral and Control conditions, t = 2.36, p = .025. Findings indicate that infants may well be both aware of and influenced by praise directed at another (vicarious reinforcement). Environments that support/reinforce active play may enhance infant learning. Parent-infant groups may be considered viable treatment/intervention options. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Experimental|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Mia L Schmitt, "Effects of vicarious reward on infant observational learning: A deferred imitation study" (January 1, 2001). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3011869.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3011869

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