The doll, called Bobo, was the opposite of menacing with its wide, ecstatic grin and goofy clown outfit. But when it was their own turn to play with Bobo, children who witnessed an adult pummeling the doll were likely to show aggression too. Similar to their adult models, the children kicked the doll, hit it with a mallet, and threw it in the air. They even came up with new ways to hurt Bobo, such as throwing darts or aiming a toy gun at him. Children who were exposed to a non-aggressive adult or no model at all had far less aggression toward Bobo. Faye notes that the Bobo doll experiments were also influential outside of the scientific community.
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By Saul McLeod , updated During the s, Albert Bandura conducted a series of experiments on observational learning, collectively known as the Bobo doll experiments. Bandura conducted a controlled experiment study to investigate if social behaviors i.
Bandura, Ross, and Ross tested 36 boys and 36 girls from the Stanford University Nursery School aged between 3 to 6 years old. The researchers pre-tested the children for how aggressive they were by observing the children in the nursery and judged their aggressive behavior on four 5-point rating scales.
It was then possible to match the children in each group so that they had similar levels of aggression in their everyday behavior. The experiment is, therefore, an example of a matched pairs design. To test the inter-rater reliability of the observers, 51 of the children were rated by two observers independently and their ratings compared.
A lab experiment was used, in which the independent variable the type of model was manipulated in three conditions:. In the experimental conditions children were individually shown into a room containing toys and played with some potato prints and pictures in a corner for 10 minutes while either: 24 children 12 boys and 12 girls watched a male or female model behaving aggressively towards a toy called a 'Bobo doll'.
The adults attacked the Bobo doll in a distinctive manner - they used a hammer in some cases, and in others threw the doll in the air and shouted "Pow, Boom. Another 24 children 12 boys and 12 girls were exposed to a non-aggressive model who played in a quiet and subdued manner for 10 minutes playing with a tinker toy set and ignoring the bobo-doll.
The final 24 children 12 boys and 12 girls were used as a control group and not exposed to any model at all. All the children including the control group were subjected to 'mild aggression arousal. As soon as the child started to play with the toys, the experimenter told the child that these were the experimenter's very best toys and she had decided to reserve them for the other children. The non-aggressive toys included a tea set, crayons, three bears and plastic farm animals.
The aggressive toys included a mallet and peg board, dart guns, and a 3 foot Bobo doll. Observations were made at 5-second intervals, therefore, giving response units for each child. However, the exception to this general pattern was the observation of how often they punched Bobo, and in this case the effects of gender were reversed. The evidence for girls imitating same-sex models is not strong.
There was little difference in the verbal aggression between boys and girls. The findings support Bandura's Social Learning Theory.
That is, children learn social behavior such as aggression through the process of observation learning - through watching the behavior of another person. There are three main advantages of the experimental method. Experiments are the only means by which cause and effect can be established. Thus, it could be demonstrated that the model did have an effect on the child's subsequent behavior because all variables other than the independent variable are controlled.
It allows for precise control of variables. Many variables were controlled, such as the gender of the model, the time the children observed the model, the behavior of the model and so on.
Experiments can be replicated. Standardized procedures and instructions were used, allowing for replicability. In fact, the study has been replicated with slight changes, such as using video and similar results were found Bandura, Many psychologists are very critical of laboratory studies of imitation - in particular because they tend to have low ecological validity. The situation involves the child and an adult model, which is a very limited social situation and there is no interaction between the child and the model at any point; certainly the child has no chance to influence the model in any way.
Also, the model and the child are strangers. This, of course, is quite unlike 'normal' modeling, which often takes place within the family. Cumberbatch found that children who had not played with a Bobo Doll before were five times as likely to imitate the aggressive behavior than those who were familiar with it; he claims that the novelty value of the doll makes it more likely that children will imitate the behavior. A further criticism of the study is that the demonstrations are measured almost immediately.
With such snap shot studies, we cannot discover if such a single exposure can have long-term effects. It is possible to argue that the experiment was unethical. For example, there is the problem of whether or not the children suffered any long-term consequences as a result of the study. Although it is unlikely, we can never be certain. An observer's behavior can also be affected by the positive or negative consequences of a model's behavior.
So we not only watch what people do, but we watch what happens when they do things. This is known as vicarious reinforcement. We are more likely to imitate behavior that is rewarded and refrain from behavior that is punished. Bandura used a similar experimental set up to the one outlined above to test vicarious reinforcement. When allowed to enter the playroom, children in the reward and control conditions imitated more of aggressive actions of the model than did the children in the punishment condition.
The children in the model punished group had learned the aggression by observational learning, but did not imitate it because they expected negative consequences. Reinforcement gained by watching another person is known as vicarious reinforcement. McLeod, S. Bobo doll experiment. Simply Psychology. Bandura, A. Influence of models' reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses.
Journal of personality and social psychology, 1 6 , Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , 63, Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , 66 1 , 3. Toggle navigation. Two of the experiments are described below:. Download this article as a PDF. How to reference this article: How to reference this article: McLeod, S. Back to top.
Bandura and Bobo
Does the violence that children observe in television programs, movies, and video games lead them to behave aggressively? This is a hot question today, but it was also of great interest in the s when a psychologist led an experiment known as the Bobo doll experiment to determine how kids learn aggression through observation. Are aggression and violence learned behaviors? In a famous and influential experiment known as the Bobo doll experiment, Albert Bandura and his colleagues demonstrated one way that children learn aggression. According to Bandura's social learning theory, learning occurs through observations and interactions with other people. Essentially, people learn by watching others and then imitating these actions.
What the Bobo Doll Experiment Reveals About Kids and Aggression
The Bobo doll experiment or experiments is the collective name for the experiments performed by influential psychologist, Albert Bandura. During and he studied children's behavior after they watched a human adult model act aggressively towards a Bobo doll , a doll-like toy with a rounded bottom and low center of mass that rocks back to an upright position after it has been knocked down. There are different variations of the experiment. The most notable experiment measured the children's behavior after seeing the human model get rewarded, get punished, or experience no consequence for physically abusing the Bobo doll. The experiments are empirical methods to test Bandura's social learning theory. The social learning theory claims that people learn largely by observing, imitating, and modeling.