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Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” – Albert Bandura.

Imitating and modelling

Source: Robert Hainer/Adobe Stock

Albert Bandura is an eminent person in the field of developmental psychology and educational psychology. One of his contributions to the field of psychology and that has relevance to communication is Modelling theory. In this theory, Albert Bandura stresses on the role of social learning through observation. He believes that people adopt behavior by observing others.


Modelling theory emphasises on the importance of observation and imitation that takes place from an individual’s perspective though the characters portrayed through media, and how it brings a change when it comes to their behavior, knowledge, attitudes and values.

The imitation is more likely to happen if the model holds an admired status and the activity that they do are of great value. The imitated behavior is gradually reinforced and the individual identifies with the model and gradually tries out the behavior.

Steps in the Modelling process

According to Bandura, effective modelling requires attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. Various factors increase the amount of attention paid by an individual. It can be complexity, prevalence, or the functional value.

Once attention is paid, we have the retention part, where an individual remembers what he/she has paid attention to. Next is reproduction, where the individual exactly does the activities he/she has observed.

Last factor is motivation where an individual finds out a reasonable reason to imitate what he/she is seeing through media.

Modelling can happen as a positive or negative process. Violence is a negative modelling and any activity that is of rewarding manner like social service is a positive modelling.

Stages in Modelling theory

  1. Seeing an action portrayed in the media.
  2. Viewer identifies with the actor.
  3. The viewer imitates the actor.
  4. Viewer gets motivated if the activity gets some rewards.


Movies, soap operas, and Advertisements play a major role in the modelling process of an individual. The celebrity endorsements, products used by actors through movies/soap operas, the character of actors in movies/soap operas may shape the attitudes and values of people who are exposed to them.

A person observes/watches them and tends to copy them. Whatever they see through media, they imbibe those and reflects in their behavior and lifestyle.

Nowadays mass media plays a major role in behavior modelling. If people are exposed to violent content, then they will inculcate violent behavior in their day to day life too. This can happen at any stage in life.

We all come across different types of people with different behavior. Anyone can influence us and be a model for us. For students, teachers play the role of a model.

In short, modelling theory is about learning through imitation and identification.  Media dictates how we live our lives. What we possess, what we are, how we are perceived tells our social status and we modify it according to the media content and other external factors that we are exposed to.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Alice April 25, 2014, 1:34 am

    Very explicit. Kudos to Bandura

  • quindon October 20, 2019, 6:21 pm

    please i wish to know about the assumptions of this theory

  • joseph cofie March 9, 2020, 11:44 pm

    insightful. Kudos to Albert Bandura. The younger generation are grateful and will continue to be

  • Rahul Qureshi February 2, 2022, 8:14 am

    Top level

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