The functions of observational learning

Jennifer Cumming, SE Clark, P McCullagh, DM Ste-Marie, C Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The main aim of the present investigation was to examine how athletes use observational learning (OL) through the development of a valid and reliable questionnaire. A second purpose was to determine how the functions of OL that emerged compared to the functions of imagery that have already been determined [Paivio, A. (1985). Cognitive and motivational functions of imagery in human performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 10, pp. 22S-28S] general analytical framework for imagery. Design: Four samples of questionnaire data, presented in three studies. Methods: Male and female athletes in a variety of sports ranging from recreational to the elite level completed the questionnaire. Study 1 consisted of 400 athletes (197 male and 203 female) with a mean age of 21.26 (SD = 2.88). For Study 2, 953 athletes (462 male, 483 female, eight unreported), with a mean age of 22.37 (SD = 5.15) completed the questionnaire. Finally, Study 3 consisted of 200 athletes (77 male, 123 female) with a mean age of 19.62 years (SD = 2.17). Results: Study 1 consisted of computing a principal component analysis of the Functions of Observational Learning Questionnaire (FOLQ). From this, the 17-item. FOLQ emerged that contained three factors (skill, strategy, and performance). In Study 2, a confirmatory factor analysis was computed that confirmed the items and the factor structure of the questionnaire. Finally, Study 3 confirmed the concurrent validity and the test-retest reliability of the questionnaire, along with examining group differences in terms of OL usage by athletes. Conclusions: Athletes use OL for both cognitive functions (skill and strategy) and motivational functions (optimal arousal and mental performance state). It seems that athletes use OL primarily for cognitive functions, whereas, imagery is mainly used by athletes for motivational functions. Overall, the results indicate that the FOLQ may be a useful tool for examining research questions surrounding OL. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-537
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2005


  • functions
  • athletes
  • imagery
  • cognitions
  • motivation
  • questionnaire development
  • observational learning


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