< 1 MIN READ | Educational Psychology

What is Vicarious Reinforcement: Definition, Examples, and Application

Dennis Relojo-Howell

Cite This
Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2014, November 2). What is Vicarious Reinforcement: Definition, Examples, and Application. Psychreg on Educational Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/what-is-vicarious-reinforcement/
Reading Time: < 1 minute

 1,929 total views,  12 views today


As a background, in psychology, reinforcement is means to recognise and reward desirable behaviour in hopes that such behaviour will be repeated. Meanwhile, vicarious reinforcement is people’s tendency to imitate behaviours for which they have seen on others being rewarded.


  • Toddler learns to say the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ on his own because he saw his older sibling do the same and get praised for it.
  • A child eats all of his lunch in order to get dessert because he saw his older brother eat the entire meal and was given a dessert.
  • A student answers the teacher’s question because he saw one student praised by teacher for doing it.

Here’s a video to help you further understand what vicarious reinforcement is: 

Vicarious reinforcement is related to vicarious learning. It is also known as observational learning or learning through modeling and occurs when an individual learns something simply through observation without direct reinforcement or punishment of the behaviour


Social learning theory incorporated behavioural and cognitive theories of learning in order to provide a comprehensive model that could account for the wide range of learning experiences that occur in the real world.

Reinforcement learning theory states that learning is driven by discrepancies between the predicted and actual outcomes of actions. Since this theory was put forward Albert Bandura it has been widely studies and has now several applications: in work setting, in the classroom, and even in neurorehabilitation.


Image credit: Freepik

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He interviews people within psychology, mental health, and well-being on his YouTube channel, The DRH Show

Psychreg is not responsible for the contents of external websites. Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website. We run a directory of mental health service providers.

We publish differing views. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Psychreg and its correspondents. Any content provided by our authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any individual or organisation. You’re welcome to write for us

Read our full disclaimer.

Copy link