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Dr. J. L. Moreno designed the first known role playing techniques in 1910, However, it did not become widely known or used until he moved from Vienna, Austria to the United States in the 1930s.

Role playing is a technique used in the learning process to provide participation and involvement in the learning process. In a training environment, role playing allows the learner to receive objective feedback about one's performance. Role playing techniques can be used to diagnose interactive skills, to provide models and practice, and to motivate individuals to pay more attention to their interpersonal impact. One of its primary benefits is that it allows the learner to experience a real life situation in a protected environment.

While activities such as role playing can help break up the monopoly of lectures as learners can normally not keep tuned into a lecture for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time (Johnstone, Percival, 1976), their primary objective is to allow the learners to become actively involved in the learning process, which leads to better and deeper learning.