People and animals don’t learn only by conditioning; they also learn by observing others. Observational learning is the process of learning to respond in a particular way by watching others, who are called models. Observational learning is also called “vicarious conditioning” because it involves learning by watching others acquire responses through classical or operant conditioning.
Example: Brian might learn not to stand too close to a soccer goal because he saw another spectator move away after getting whacked on the head by a wayward soccer ball. The other spectator stopped standing close to the soccer goal because of operant conditioning—getting clobbered by the ball acted as positive punishment for standing too close. Brian was indirectly, or vicariously, conditioned to move away.