Motoric and symbolic mediation in observational learning

Seymour M. Berger, Linda L. Carli, Kathy S. Hammersla, Judith F. Karshmer, M. Estela Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The observers' motoric and symbolic representations of a model's behavior are important mediators in observational learning. The observers' spontaneous use of these mediators may be influenced by their familiarity with responses performed by a model and by their intention to learn these responses. Unfamiliar observers do not have symbolic codes available for the model's responses, so they may rely on motor mimicry. Familiar observers have symbolic codes available, so they may employ those codes and, possibly, motor mimicry as mediators. Spontaneous mediation may also depend on whether observers intend to learn these responses. Three experiments with 132 undergraduates revealed that familiar observers used motoric and symbolic mediators, whereas unfamiliar observers primarily used motor mimicry. Symbolic coding facilitated familiar but not unfamiliar observers' learning; unfamiliar observers' learning was related to motor mimicry. Intention to learn increased motor mimicry but not symbolic coding. An interpretation is offered for the observers' pervasive use of motor mimicry. (3 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-746
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1979
Externally publishedYes


  • familiarity with &
  • intention to learn model's responses, motoric with vs without symbolic mediators in observational learning, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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