Observational Learning in Animals

I was actually just watching a video online about seals and whales that mimic their handlers actions/mannerisms/etc. SeaWorld has a good article related to observational learning. 


Observational learning occurs from simple observational techniques and requires no outside reinforcement or encouragement. For these animals, though, it is dependent on their environment. If an animal can mimic another, it is usually within a familiar environment, and if it changes, the animal probably will no longer mimic who it was observing before. 

For whales at SeaWorld, it is common to just have to train the mother. Her calves will actually just end up learning the show tricks from her, instead of having to train them all individually. If the environment is kept the same, there will be a cycle of learning throughout the whale families who are at the attraction. The calves are conditioned by their mothers to do everything the same as their elder.

It is so interesting that humans are so different from these animals, but so similar in the way we learn. Add in positive reinforcement and learning becomes so much more likely. 


  1. I had no idea that SeaWorld trained only the whale mothers and it was the mother's duty to mimic the learned tricks to her offspring. Your post was vey informative and learning from animals is an essential role in learning about humans in ways.


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