Role of symbolic coding and rehearsal processes in observational learning

Albert Bandura, Robert W. Jeffrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Investigated the effects of symbolic coding and different types of rehearsal on retention by 44 male and 44 female undergraduates of observationally learned responses over varying temporal intervals. Ss who coded the model's actions verbally or numerically at input and immediately rehearsed the memory codes from which the behavior could be reconstructed attained the highest level of response retention. Physical practice, on the other hand, did not independently aid retention of modeled responses. Both coding and symbolic rehearsal emerged as critical determinants of delayed imitative performance. Neither rehearsal without coding nor coding without rehearsal of the codes in immediate memory improved retention of modeled behavior. In further tests conducted a week later, symbolic coding remained as a significant determinant of matching performance, with the facilitative effects being largely attributable to codes that previously existed in permanent memory. Results support a social learning view of observational learning that emphasizes central processing of response information in the acquisition phase and motor reproduction and incentive processes in the overt enactment of what has been learned. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1973


  • different types of rehearsal, retention of observationally learned responses over varying temporal intervals, college students
  • symbolic coding &


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