What is Vicarious Learning: Boost Your Skills Without the Risk

Sometimes, you might want to learn from what others have gone through. You might not have access to these experiences yourself. So, when you learn from the other’s experience, this is where vicarious learning comes in. 

Like, if you hear about someone dealing with a tough time, it can help you figure out what to do if something similar happens to you. Vicarious learning gives you ideas and ways to manage different things at your job or in life.

By reading this article, you’ll get a good hold of what vicarious learning means. This article is like a guide. It shows how learning from others can make things better in specific situations and help you with your tasks.

Vicarious learning

Vicarious learning is when you learn by seeing what others do in any particular situation. It’s like learning from others’ experiences without experiencing it yourself. You might watch someone do a task or hear about what they did. This is really common in things like social sciences. For example, you could learn how to play football by just observing someone really good at it. It’s like copying what you see.

You can also learn this way by reading about someone’s experience. Let’s say you want to be a good digital marketer, but you’ve never done it before. So, reading about someone famous in this field can be a big help. By using their tactics or techniques, you can also become a good digital marketer. 

So, if you are still confused about what is vicarious learning? The simple answer is vicarious learning is really about watching, listening, and getting information from what others have done.

Vicarious Learning vs. Observational Learning

Vicarious learning and observational learning are both common ways to learn, but they’re a bit different. Vicarious learning happens when you learn from what others have gone through. It can be from a story you hear or when you think about how you’d feel in their shoes. You put yourself in the place of the main character of the event.

Observational learning, on the other hand, is more about watching things as they happen. It’s like seeing someone live going through that event or in a video recording. Here, you use your eyes more, looking at visuals and images. So, while both are about learning, vicarious learning is more about feeling and imagining, and observational learning is about watching and seeing things directly.

Also Read: Pedagogy vs Andragogy

Benefits of Vicarious Learning

Vicarious learning has many benefits. Let’s discuss some of them in detail:

1. Helps You To Avoid Risk

Risks are not a worry here. Instead of trying something risky, you can watch a video or hear a story about someone who succeeded or failed. It’s safer than doing it yourself. 

2. Easy to Learn From Others Experience

Vicarious learning is easy to get. You can learn through stories, books, or real-life examples. People often share their experiences freely.

3. Helps To Improve Imitation and Knowledge Retention

A big benefit of vicarious learning is better imitation and knowledge retention. Your brain makes new neural pathways while you imitate what you’ve seen. It’s more effective than observational learning.

Vicarious Learning Examples

Vicarious learning is quite versatile and appears in many aspects of our lives. Let’s discover some of them below:

1. Viewing Real-Life Situations

Imagine a salesperson new to their job. They learn by viewing how experts handle sales, listening to them, and observing their behavior. This is a classic example of vicarious learning in everyday life. 

By absorbing these traits and blending them with their strengths, they can turn them to their business’s advantage. In the workplace, employees often mimic senior colleagues to gain experience and advice. These examples show the profound influence of vicarious learning on our daily lives.

2. Reading a Book and Hearing a Story

Books and stories, particularly business-related books, offer insights into strategies used by authors in their business ventures. When you become engrossed in a book, you step into the character’s shoes, understanding the consequences of their actions and the outcomes. Similarly, hearing a story about a colleague’s experience with company laws and regulations or about a high-performing employee who earned a promotion through commitment teaches important lessons. Such stories capture our attention, making us more attentive to the fate that our actions might bring those outcomes, whether it’s regarding misconduct or excelling as an employee.

3. Watching a Video

Thanks to technological advancements, learning skills is now as simple as a click of a button. Business colleagues keep up with each other and continue interacting through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft teams and Slack. These tools also facilitate learning via webinars. 

Additionally, online videos, including “how-to” tutorials, help individuals acquire new skills and understand various topics. This form of vicarious conditioning allows the observer to learn from the experience presented in the videos.

How to Implement Vicarious Learning in Your Business

For small businesses, vicarious learning psychology can be a key to success. By creating a work environment where staff can learn from each other, you’re being proactive. Here’s how to do it:

1. Offer Opportunities to Shadow Different Roles

In many organizations, employees get stuck in their roles. Letting them shadow different positions helps them see the bigger picture. This can be as simple as having Human resources staff learn from project staff. It’s a great way for everyone to understand the company’s culture effectively.

2. Develop a Knowledge Management System

Create a database for peer-to-peer learning. When employees discover new processes or make presentations, save these in your system. This way, future employees can also learn from them, like an internal library of resources.

3. Establish Communities of Practice

Form groups based on common interests or skills. For example, a group interested in design and communication strategies can share techniques and skills. They can learn from each other and improve their skills for clients.

4. Create a Mentorship Program

New employees can learn a lot from a mentorship program. It’s not just about the orientation phase; it’s about ongoing learning and integration into the company’s culture. They can get advice and knowledge from more experienced colleagues.

5. Reinforce Vicarious Learning Through Recognition

Celebrate when employees share their knowledge and skills. If someone gives a presentation, make sure they’re praised. This encourages a culture of learning and sharing.

By using these methods, your business can make the most out of vicarious learning. It’s all about creating opportunities for staff to learn from each other and grow together.


1. Who introduced vicarious learning?

In education, vicarious learning is defined as learning by imitation. You watch others, like your peers, and copy their actions. This way, you learn from their success and the highlighted behaviors they show.

2. What is vicarious learning?

Vicarious learning was first talked about in the 1960’s by Bandura. It’s about learning from observing others’ behaviour, a key part of social learning. It involves four parts: attentional, motor reproduction, retention, and motivational processes. It’s about learning by watching others.

3. What does the meaning of vicariously mean with an example?

Vicariously means experiencing something indirectly. Like feeling the thrill of an adventure your friend had. An adverb form of vicarious.


Vicarious learning isn’t the same as doing things yourself, but it’s a really good way to understand others better. It helps increase empathy and gives you a feel for things without you having to go through everything yourself. This is super helpful because we often get too focused on small, everyday stuff and forget about the bigger things in life. So, vicarious learning helps us see the big picture and focus on what’s really important. It’s about taking in a wide range of experiences and using that understanding to make sense of our own lives.

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