Vicarious Learning: Meaning, Benefits, Best Practices

Vicarious learning is the process of learning from others’ experiences. Read this article to know more about it.

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You may want to learn from other people's experiences, experiences that you don't have access to yourself. For instance, you might want to learn how someone else dealt with a difficult situation because it helps you develop coping mechanisms for when things go wrong in your own life. This is vicarious learning.

What is Vicarious Learning?

Vicarious learning is the process of learning from others' experiences. It is a type of observational learning, meaning that it involves watching and listening to others. In social sciences, vicarious learning happens when people observe someone else carry out a task or complete an activity and then imitate the actions they have seen. For example, if you learn how to play football by observing an expert player in action, you engage in vicarious learning.

Vicarious learning can also be accomplished through reading about another person's situation or experience. For instance, if you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur but lack firsthand experience with entrepreneurship, vicarious information may help guide your decision-making process.

Benefits of Vicarious Learning

The benefits of vicarious learning are that you can learn from the experiences of others without having to go through the same experience yourself. You can use vicarious learning in many ways, from learning about a specific topic or skill to developing your personal growth.

It takes risks out of the equation.

One reasons is that it takes risks out of the equation. If you could watch a video or read a story about someone who succeeded or failed at something, would you rather do that than try it yourself? Of course not!

You can learn from the stories.

For example, if you're a manager at a company and want to improve your team's productivity, you can ask your employees what they think is holding them back. If you hear that there are too many meetings or no one has time for collaboration, then it's time to make changes in how the team operates.

You can also learn from mistakes: What went wrong and why? Was it a lack of communication? Was it poor planning? Did everyone have enough information? Or maybe nothing went wrong—you don't know because it hasn't happened yet!

Easy to obtain an experience

Vicarious learning is a process by which you can learn from the experiences of others. You can learn through stories, videos, books, and real-life situations.

It's easy to obtain an experience because people who already have it are willing to share their experiences with us.

Improvement in imitation and knowledge retention

Another benefit of vicarious learning is that it improves imitation and knowledge retention. When we learn by imitation, our brains form new neural pathways for the actions we're imitating. These pathways are more effective than watching someone else do something, reading about it in a book, or watching it on video.

Vicarious learning is more effective than observational learning and self-exploration (watching videos). It's even more effective than watching video clips from other people doing the same thing you want to learn!

Vicarious Learning vs. Observational Learning

Vicarious learning is when someone learns by observing the actions of others.

On the other hand, observational learning is when someone learns by observing the actions of others.

Vicarious Learning examples

  • Watching a movie
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Watching a news broadcast
  • Visiting a museum or historical site
  • Talking with friends, family members, or other people in your life (in person or on social media)

Viewing real-life situations

Vicarious learning is a term that describes the process of learning through observation. For example, you can vicariously learn from the stories of others, their experiences, their mistakes and successes, and even their struggles and triumphs. This includes watching movies or reading books about people facing similar challenges to yours.

It may seem obvious that we can learn from observing others' experiences in life—and this is true—but it's important to note that there are two types of vicarious learning: direct observation and indirect observation. Direct observation means you see something happening firsthand; indirect observation refers more specifically to seeing it portrayed on-screen (like in a movie).

Reading a book and hearing a story.

Vicarious learning is all about experiencing something through observation rather than in person. It's the act of watching someone else go through an experience, like reading a book or hearing stories from your parents. Reading a book and hearing stories are both examples of vicarious learning. Reading involves more interaction between you and the content; it's more active than watching videos on YouTube but less interactive than playing an online game or participating in community theater (which is why these latter activities can be considered types of experience).

Fun fact: even though books are passive experiences because they don't require effort from your end except for turning pages, they're still one of the most effective ways to learn new things!

Watching a video

Videos can be accessed easily and seen at your own pace. You can watch them on the bus, in bed, or while eating lunch. In short: anywhere, anytime! Because they are so accessible, videos provide a great way to learn vicariously. They can also be watched repeatedly, so you don't have to worry about forgetting what you previously saw. Finally, if you want to see something again but don't want to rewind it yourself (perhaps because it's too painful), there is a pause button for that purpose as well!

How to implement Vicarious Learning

There are many ways to implement vicarious learning. The first step is selecting a video, book, or podcast that you think will help you. Then, watch/listen to it until you've absorbed the information and can apply it in your work. If you find yourself stuck on something, try reading through a blog post by someone who's written about that topic before – chances are they'll have included some good links or resources within their article!


So, in conclusion, it's important to remember that vicarious learning isn't a replacement for direct experience. Instead, it's an effective way to increase empathy and understanding without having to experience the full breadth of life's experiences. This is especially true when we consider how easy it is to get caught up in the minutiae of daily life and miss out on the big picture; vicarious learning can help us focus on what matters.

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