What is Vicarious Learning, Conditioning, Modeling & Applicable Examples - Deepstash

What is Vicarious Learning, Conditioning, Modeling & Applicable Examples

Learning comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes. When most of us think about learning, our minds go to a formal classroom in a college or university with a professor dictating what we need to know to pass the next exam. For many of us, learning was solely about getting a good grade. While a formal education is undoubtedly one way to gain knowledge, plenty of other methods exist, especially after your academic days have passed. One of them is vicarious learning. One could say it’s learning via osmosis, but that’s only a slim definition. Osmosis doesn’t require us to do anything, but vicarious learning does. So, what is vicarious learning?

Deepstash Team • 7 minute read

What is Vicarious Learning, Conditioning, Modeling  & Applicable Examples Image

Vicarious Learning: What It Is and What It Isn’t

We’ve probably all heard someone say that they’re living vicariously through a person. They usually mean that they've seen someone living the kind of life they long for and are viewing it from afar. Watching them in person or via social media posts, they can kind of half-dream that their awesome life is their own. However, vicarious learning is much, much better, as it encompasses gaining knowledge from someone else’s experiences, reactions and even perceptions.

Vicarious learning begins early in life and is a toddler's first method of gaining skills and knowledge. Children learn how to do things by watching their parents and caretakers. Vicarious learning isn’t some strange or bizarre concept. It’s actually quite natural. However, as adults, many of us forget how to do it. There is some crossover with observational learning, which we’ll cover later.

What It Is

In its most basic definition, vicarious learning is a way of learning by observing and learning from the experiences of others. A person doesn’t need to have a real-life experience to understand and learn from it. It’s as easy as seeing someone stick their hand in a fire or being told about the experience. That person got burned, so sticking your hand in a fire probably isn’t a good idea. This is vicarious learning, especially if you sought out the information. This can often develop into a form of continuous learning where one can go as far as learn from the curated or anecdotal experiences of other peers.

What It Isn’t

Vicarious learning isn’t direct, intentional, hands-on teaching or training. If the person who burned their hand in the fire then instructed you to put your hand in a fire (or not to do so), that’s considered hands-on training by someone with experience. Any learning that involves direct instruction isn’t vicarious learning.

Where does Vicarious Conditioning occur and why is it so often associated with Vicarious Learning?

While learning through observation or learning through the mistakes of others, as we often like to think about this concept, often refers to gathering insights and information from the way our peers act, behave and go through, Vicarious Conditioning is mostly related to the insights we gather from others' reaction to stimuli.

In a very simple way of saying, gathering new insights from the way a person reacted or perceived an event or a piece of information leans more towards the conditioning aspect of this concept. Think about how content curation functions, where one learns something new from the way another person perceives and talks or writes about a book, a podcast, or maybe a movie. Reviews are a pretty nice example here as well.

At Deepstash, we're looking at Vicarious Learning and Conditioning as among the many educational concepts that enable our community to develop a healthy habit out of consuming and curating impactful ideas they are naturally drawn to. By reading books, listening to podcasts, maybe an article or a Youtube Video and writing down your own key ideas, what made the most sense to you and sharing that to a community you are effectively engaging in a form of vicarious learning.

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Observational Learning

Behaviourist B.F. Skinner had theorized that learning can only be achieved by individual action. Social Cognitive Theory, however, states that an individual can learn by observing and imitating models, grasping and reproducing the learning much faster.

The Four Processes of Observational Learning
  • Attentional: When people observe their model.
  • Retention: When the observed information is remembered.
  • Production: When the observed information is recalled and reconstructed later, producing a variation of the learned model.
  • Motivational: Depending on the feedback and the outcome, the individual is motivated or demotivated to produce the same.

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The idea format used by Deepstash is important because it condenses complex concepts and profound thoughts into easy to understand sentences. It makes ideas easier to apply in daily life, helping you to make positive changes and achieve your goals.

Vicarious Learning Examples

There are hundreds of thousands of valid examples of vicarious learning. You may already be using this learning technique without even realizing it. Vicarious learning is an excellent way to gain knowledge and expand your skill set without having direct experiences to benefit from it. Examples of vicarious learning can include:

  • Reading a book, watching a video, or listening to a podcast by a renowned expert
  • Observing the behavior of role models
  • Attending workshops, seminars, or conferences hosted by industry experts
  • Watching a review or reading a book summary
  • Even being at school and noticing how a colleague behaves and responds
  • At work when you notice the behavior patterns of a co-worker that you admire and look forward to, thus you naturally lean towards that behavior, to copy, integrate and assimilate into your.

The list can go on and on. In short, vicarious learning examples are any actions you take to actively learn something from an expert’s experience without the need to have that experience yourself. However, just listening or watching doesn’t equate to vicarious learning. There’s a little more involved than mere observation.

Very often this form of learning through the experience of others goes very well when paired with other adjacent educational experiences, like Microlearning, consuming Curated Content or engaging in Peer-assisted Learning. A key factor that sets apart learning vicariously from other forms of continuous learning is the strong reliance on other peers, role models and community interaction, where actually having access to the genuine thoughts, ideas or actions of others is a way for you to develop.

What Are the 4 Stages of Vicarious Learning?

To dive deeper into understanding the concept of vicarious learning, we would be remiss, not to mention the Canadian-American psychologist Albert Bandura. In 1961, Bandura was responsible for the groundbreaking Bobo Doll experiment in which children observed adults hitting a doll, and they would respond in kind. This study is a good example of observational learning, sometimes used synonymously with vicarious learning.

Vicarious learning requires the occurrence of four stages or processes:

  • Attention - The learner must pay careful attention to the actions of the one they want to learn from. This could be listening directly to them speak at a seminar, watching their videos, listening to podcasts, or reading notes those persons.
  • Retention - The learner retains the information from someone with personal, first-hand experiences. This information is retained with careful study and review of the concepts explained.
  • Reproduction - The learner then attempts to replicate the actions, concepts, or ideas they’ve listened to and absorbed into memory. Repetition of the actions may be required until they fully comprehend the lesson or concept.
  • Motivation - The learner is motivated to repeat the actions or principles of the person with first-hand experience. This desire is due to a real or perceived belief that they’ll benefit in some way from the other person’s experience or experiences.

Vicarious learning requires taking an active role in learning from someone else’s experience. Merely listening, reading, or watching doesn’t warrant being vicarious learning. Without actively paying attention, retaining the information, reproducing the concepts, and remaining motivated to repeat the ideas learned, the observer hasn’t learned vicariously.

What Are the Benefits of Vicarious Learning?

All styles of learning, no matter how minute, have benefits. Learning shouldn’t stop after completing formal education or on-the-job training. The benefits of vicarious learning are unique and somewhat different from those of other ways of learning. Here’s a look at its top benefits and why you should consider vicarious learning.

It’s a Risk-Free Investment

Vicarious learning has the advantage of being somewhat risk-free, depending on what you’re attempting to learn. Returning to the “hand in the fire” concept, learning from others who have already had the experience of being "burned" or experience the effort of learning from a course or investing the time to read a whole book doesn't require the observer to face the same fate. It’s a much better scenario to learn from those who’ve already taken the risk and learned from their experience or mistakes.

Learning from the Best

You can easily obtain information from the best of the best and learn from their first-hand experiences. You can follow experts on their websites or social media platforms by discovering who is an authoritative entity in any topic that interests you. Those who know what they’re talking about speak at workshops and symposiums and are guests on popular podcasts.

Learning from these kind of experts often implies a time investment, podcasts, books, courses, videos, all need a serious commitment to get something genuinely valuable. Having the possibility to read or listen to flashcards that condense all that information into minute-long bite-sized learning sessions is among the best ways one can practice vicarious learning effectively. Deepstash is one of the most popular microlearning platforms that enables you to genuinely learn from what other people already considered to be the best.

It’s Easily Obtainable Knowledge

With so many books, blogs, videos, and podcasts available, you only need to pick the industry expert or professional with the knowledge you’re interested in and spend some time ingesting their experiences and thoughts on leadership, marketing facts & tips, popular motivation tips or maybe just efficient ways to start exercising and being fitter or cool food facts & nutrition. You can easily obtain information from what the others already considered to be useful.

Enhancement and Faster Acquisition of Knowledge

Vicarious learning can provide a broader perspective of a topic or concept since you’re learning from those who have had direct first-hand experiences. These experiences can be either from intensive study or having incredibly unique encounters that most haven’t experienced. Learning vicariously through others eliminates the need for self-study or time-consuming trial-and-error processes.

Aren’t Vicarious Learning and Observational Learning the Same Things?

Isn’t this just another fancy term for vicarious learning? While these two terms may seem synonymous, they have some subtle differences, but in many ways, they’re similar. If we’re learning something and it is a positive experience, at this point, we’re just arguing semantics. However, for the sake of argument, here’s how the two terms differ.

The most significant difference between the two is action.

  • Vicarious learning - Those who engage in vicarious learning actively seek knowledge by connecting with experts with first-hand experiences or extensive training. These learners actively seek out experts and learn from their experiences and ideas.
  • Observational learning - This style of learning almost happens by accident. Learners learn simply by observing what others do, say, or think. For observational learning to occur, one simply needs to observe the behaviors of others and gain something from the experience.

In short, vicarious learning occurs when knowledge and information are sought, retained, and implemented. It’s usually for people who are serious about learning something deeper without needing the exact experience to gain its benefits. While observational learning is somewhat similar, many times with this style of learning, it’s not always immediately sought after.

Don’t Stick Your Hand in the Fire: Learn Vicariously

Sticking your hand in a fire is painful and dangerous. Fortunately, with vicarious learning, you don’t need to feel the pain first-hand to understand the outcome. Seeking out those with the type of experience you want to know more about is a smart way to learn. Learning from those who’ve “been there/done that” can save you time, effort, and the pain of failure.

Seeking out the experience of others with an open mind will help to expand your horizons and improve your problem-solving abilities. This can all be achieved by learning vicariously. You don’t need to make your own mistakes when you can learn from others who have already stuck their hand in the fire.

Further Exploration: Learn more about Bite-sized Learning and related Concepts

Vicarious Learning is closely intertwined with the concept of Observational Learning, as it represents the drive to absorb knowledge by watching and imitating others. This approach simplifies the learning process by allowing learners to acquire new skills and insights through the experiences of others, making the journey enjoyable and effective. Discover our Journey Collections related to this concept and explore unique curated ideas.

  1. The Wisdom of Continuous Learning : Learning through observing others can significantly enhance charisma by allowing individuals to emulate successful social behaviors and communication techniques demonstrated by charismatic leaders. By absorbing and replicating these traits, learners can improve their own interpersonal skills and presence, making them more engaging and persuasive in social interactions.

  2. Lifelong Learners: Lifelong learners utilize vicarious learning by continuously observing and integrating knowledge and skills from others' experiences and expertise, effectively expanding their own understanding without direct personal trial and error. This method allows them to adapt and evolve their competencies across diverse fields and challenges, maintaining their relevance and proficiency throughout their lives.

  3. DDennis Anthony’s PMP Insider Secrets: Vicariously learning from a role model involves observing and mimicking the behaviors, attitudes, and decision-making processes of someone you admire or aspire to emulate. This method of learning helps you absorb successful strategies and personal attributes demonstrated by the role model, enabling you to apply these lessons to your own life and challenges.

  4. The Key Benefits of Micro-Learning : Vicarious learning integrates seamlessly with microlearning by allowing learners to quickly observe and assimilate small, specific skills or behaviors demonstrated by others in concise, focused segments.

Vicarious Learning is a powerful concept that is central to our philosophy at Deepstash, where we believe that observing and learning from the experiences of others can catalyze personal development and broader insight. At the heart of Deepstash, vicarious learning is embedded in every piece of content, empowering you and others to absorb knowledge effortlessly and make every observation and shared experience profoundly transformative.

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