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Bandura Bobo Doll

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Bandura Bobo Doll

According to Bandura, an individual’s behaviour is influenced when the role models they observe are rewarded or punished, regardless of their behaviour change. Let us now look at how applied his theory in an experiment - what was the aim of Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment? What did the experiment reveal? Read on to find out.

Bandura’s bobo doll (1961) experiment: summary

The Bandura Bobo doll (1961) experiment used children as subjects for a controlled laboratory experiment in which he investigated whether people learn social behaviours, such as aggression, through observation and imitation. In the 1960s, he repeated his hypothesis in several experiments to test whether the results differed. Social learning theory can also be a bridge between behavioural and cognitive approaches.

The principles of Bandura’s (1961) social learning theory states people learn by observing and imitating role models.

How did Albert Bandura (1961) select the sample size for his study?

Bandura et al. (1961) selected children from Stanford University kindergarten. There were 72 children (36 girls and 36 boys) aged three to six. Two different observers observed the children on a four-point aggression scale with a rating on a five-point scale.

Bandura Bobo Doll 1961 Child StudySmarterChild, Flaticon

Both observers rated the children’s aggression levels individually and matched the scores to reach reliable agreement on their judgments, resulting in higher inter-reliability. This pretesting of the children helped Bandura divide the children into groups with corresponding levels of aggression, which is why he used the matched-pair design.

Albert Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment: steps

Bandura (1961) conducted a laboratory experiment and divided children into three groups. In the first stage, he led children into a room with toys. They first played with stamps and stickers before each group of children was exposed to the following models:

  • Group 1: 12 girls and 12 boys were exposed to an aggressive model (male or female). The model exhibited adults displaying scripted behaviour toward a reclining bobo doll in front of the children. Sometimes they hit the doll with a hammer and sometimes threw it in the air by shouting ‘pow’ or ‘boom’.
  • Group 2: 12 girls and 12 boys were confronted with a non-aggressive model. This group saw the model enter the room and play unobtrusively and quietly with a tinker toy set for ten minutes.
  • Group 3: 12 girls and 12 boys were not exposed to any model.

Bandura Bobo Doll Structure of a Bobo doll albert bandura bobo doll experiment steps StudySmarter

The structure of a Bobo doll in the Bandura experiment - StudySmarter.

Researchers brought each child separately to a room with attractive toys in stage two. As soon as the child started playing with one of the toys, an observer told the child these were their special toys, reserved for other children. This phase was referred to as ‘mild aggression arousal’. This stage’s primary purpose was to induce frustration in children to be at a similar level of aggression.

In stage three, each child was placed in a separate room with aggressive toys and some non-aggressive toys.

Aggressive Toys
Non-aggressive Toys
Dart Guns
Tea Set
Hammer
Three Teddy Bears
Bobo Doll (6 Inches Tall)
Crayons
Pegboard
Plastic Farm Animal Figurines

Each child was left alone with the toys in the room for approximately 20 minutes. They were observed through a one-way mirror and rated on a five-point scale. Researchers also recorded children’s behaviour, such as hitting the Bobo doll on the nose, as the scripted model did not imitate it.

Results and conclusions of the Bandura Bobo doll experiment

Group one displayed the most aggressive behaviour compared to group two and control group three. Children who observed the aggressive model in group one also displayed non-imitative aggression (aggressive acts not displayed by the model), such as hitting the Bobo doll on the nose. Boys showed more physical aggression than girls and mimicked a male model more in terms of aggression.

Verbal aggression was similar for girls and boys. Girls showed more physical aggression when the model was male and more verbal aggression when the model was female. Some children in the control group also showed aggression, such as hammer hitting or gunplay. The control condition showed slightly higher aggression than the non-aggressive condition.

Bandura et al. (1961) related this imitation of aggression to cultural expectations. He suggested that children recognise what behaviour is expected from their environment at a young age.

For example, the influence of the media in cartoons or dramas contain certain gender-specific behaviours and ideas, such as that men should be physically stronger.

By comparing the aggressive children with the non-aggressive children in the control group, Bandura also suggested that the expectations of society and culture may dictate certain behaviours, such as playing with guns and hammers in a certain way. However, since researchers did not expose the control group to any aggressive behaviour from the model, they still observed them performing aggressive actions on the Bobo doll, such as hitting the doll with a hammer.

Bandura (1961) observed that boys were more likely to imitate the male role model, and girls were more likely to replicate the female role model. He also suggested that we tend to mimic the role models we most identify within the absence of cultural expectations. Aggression exhibited by role models merely reduced social inhibitions against aggression.

Social inhibition means that actions performed in solitude are most unlikely to be repeated in front of others for fear of others’ disapproval.

Replication of Bandura’s research in 1965

In 1965, Bandura and Walter repeated this study, but with slight modifications. They suggested that the positive or negative consequences we see when the role model is rewarded influence behavioural imitation. We watch what other people do and wait to see what consequences follow their behaviour, which is known as vicarious reinforcement.

Procedure:

  1. Group one: the study exposed children to an aggressive model rewarded for their behaviour.

  2. Group two: the researchers exposed children to an aggressive model punished for their behaviour.

  3. Group three: they exposed children to an aggressive model who faced no consequences for their behaviour.

The children then played around, and the researchers observed them. The experiment showed children are more likely to imitate or reproduce a positively reinforced behaviour.

Aggression Bobo Doll Experiment StudySmarterAggression, Flaticon

Evaluation of Bandura et al. (1961) Bobo Doll Experiment

In laboratory-controlled experiments, cause and effect are easily determined. The version of the role model observed influenced the children’s behaviour. Thus, group one showed more aggression compared to the other groups.

Philip (1986) observed that the weeks following a boxing match series in the United States elicited more aggression (such as murders). This suggests that people observe and mimic acts of violence or aggression.

Bandura’s (1961) study had standardised procedures and a controlled environment, which facilitated replication of the study. Bandura himself repeated the study several times in the 1960s, with slight changes in the phases. It is therefore reliable.

However, in real life, acts of aggression are sometimes not planned, but are triggered spontaneously and reflexively in response to a situation, so they are less learned and more instinctual. Some researchers argued Bandura recorded the results immediately after they occurred.

It could be that children who learn aggressive actions in Bandura’s experiment do not imprint them over the long term, as was assumed in his experiment. It may be that children imitate some actions only once and never again.

The Bobo doll is also designed to be played with aggressively. If a toy is meant to be hit, it is not unreasonable to assume that a child would want to hit it. We cannot assume that the children shown how to hit the doll will only obey instead of learning.

Albert Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment ethical issues

The Bobo doll experiment prompted ethical concerns. For starters, the observed hostility could have upset the children. Furthermore, the violent behaviour they learned in the experiment may have stayed with them and caused later behavioural issues.

Second, the children were unable to consent to participate in the study. Their kindergarten instructors and parents are thought to have done so. The kids couldn't leave the study room because an investigator stood outside the door and stopped them. There was no attempt to interrogate them about the occurrence or explain to them that the adult was merely acting.


Bandura Bobo Doll - Key takeaways

  • Bandura’s (1961) social learning theory states that people can learn by observing and imitating role models.

  • Bandura (1961) selected 72 children from Stanford University kindergarten as his sample.

  • Bandura (1961) conducted his study in three stages.

  • Boys showed more physical aggression than girls and mimicked a male model more in terms of aggression.

  • Bandura (1961) linked aggression to cultural expectations and believed that children recognise what behaviour is expected from their environment at a young age.


References

  1. Albert Bandura, Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of personality and social psychology, 1(6), 1965

Frequently Asked Questions about Bandura Bobo Doll

The strength of the experiment was that it could demonstrate cause and effect. Bandura’s (1961) study also had standardised procedures and a controlled environment, which facilitated replication of the study. 

The Bobo doll experiment proved the following:


  • Children exposed to aggressive behaviours when playing with a Bobo doll will imitate the aggressive behaviours.

  • Those who are not exposed to aggressive behaviours will show little to no aggressive behaviours when playing. 

  • Children who are not shown any type of behaviour and are left to their own devices show somewhat higher aggressive behaviours than non-aggressive behaviour models. 

  • Boys displayed more physical aggression than girls and imitated a male model more in terms of aggression.

  • The verbal aggression displayed was similar for both girls and boys.

  • Girls displayed physical aggression if the model was male and more verbal aggression if the model was female. 


Overall, Bandura suggested children learn behaviour through observation and imitate aggression.

In group 1, 12 girls and 12 boys were exposed to an aggressive model (male or female). The model exhibited adults displaying scripted behaviour toward a reclining Bobo doll in front of the children. Sometimes they hit the doll with a hammer and sometimes threw it in the air by shouting ‘pow’ or ‘boom’.


The second group saw the model enter the room and play unobtrusively and quietly with a tinker toy set for ten minutes.

In laboratory-controlled experiments, cause and effect are easily determined. The version of the role model observed influenced the children’s behaviour. Thus, group one showed more aggression compared to the other groups.

Some researchers argued Bandura recorded the results immediately after they occurred. It could be that children who learn aggressive actions in Bandura’s experiment do not imprint them over the long term, as was assumed in his experiment. It may be that children imitate some actions only once and never again.

The Bobo doll is also designed to be played with aggressively. If a toy is meant to be hit, it is not unreasonable to assume that a child would want to hit it. We cannot assume that the children shown how to hit the doll will only obey instead of learning.

Final Bandura Bobo Doll Quiz

Question

What is social learning theory?

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Answer

Social learning theory by Bandura (1961) suggests individuals can learn by observation and imitation of role models.

Show question

Question

Why did Bandura et al. (1961) pre-test their sample?

Show answer

Answer

The pretesting of the children helped Bandura divide the children into groups with corresponding levels of aggression.

Show question

Question

How did Bandura (1961) use matched pair design in his research?

Show answer

Answer

He matched participants in critical areas required for the study, such as levels of existing aggression in children.

Show question

Question

Describe the sample size of Bandura’s (1961) experiment.

Show answer

Answer

Bandura’s (1961) sample included 72 children from Stanford university nursery school. He divided them into three groups of 24 children, with 12 girls and 12 boys aged three to six.

Show question

Question

Why did the study contain a high inter-reliability?

Show answer

Answer

Two observers individually judged the children’s level of aggression during the pretest and matched the results to obtain a reliable agreement in their judgments.

Show question

Question

How did Bandura (1961) divide his sample groups?

Show answer

Answer

  • Group 1: 12 girls and 12 boys were exposed to an aggressive model (male or female). The model exhibited scripted behaviour toward a reclining bobo doll in front of the children. Sometimes they hit the doll with a hammer and sometimes threw it in the air by shouting ‘pow’ or ‘boom’.
  • Group 2: 12 girls and 12 boys were confronted with a non-aggressive model. This group saw the model enter the room and play unobtrusively and quietly with a tinker toy set for ten minutes.
  • Group 3: 12 girls and 12 boys were not exposed to any model.

Show question

Question

What was the purpose of the mild aggression arousal stage?

Show answer

Answer

This stage’s primary purpose was to induce frustration in children to be at a similar level of aggression.

Show question

Question

Which groups displayed the most aggressive acts towards the bobo doll?

Show answer

Answer

Group 1 displayed more aggression, followed by some degree of aggression in the control group.

Show question

Question

How did Bandura (1961) link the display of children’s aggression to cultural expectation?

Show answer

Answer

Bandura (1961) linked aggression to cultural expectations and believed that children recognise what behaviour is expected from their environment at a young age.

Show question

Question

Which gender imitated the male role model the most?

Show answer

Answer

Boys.

Show question

Question

Provide an argument in support of Bandura’s (1961) bobo doll experiment.

Show answer

Answer

Philip (1986) observed that the weeks following a boxing match series in the United States elicited more aggression (such as murders). This evidence suggests that people observe and imitate acts of violence or aggression.

Show question

Question

Provide an argument against Bandura’s (1961) bobo doll experiment.

Show answer

Answer

Some researchers argued Bandura recorded results immediately after they occurred. It may be that children who learn aggressive actions from Bandura’s experiment do not imprint them in the long term, as hypothesised in his experiment. Children may imitate some actions only once and never again.

Show question

Question

What kind of behaviour was displayed by the model for group 1?

Show answer

Answer

The model exhibited scripted behaviour toward a reclining bobo doll in front of the children. Sometimes they hit the doll with a hammer and sometimes threw it in the air by shouting ‘pow’ or ‘boom’.

Show question

Question

What is vicarious reinforcement?

Show answer

Answer

Observing what people do and seeing what consequences follow their behaviour.

Show question

Question

What are social inhibitions?

Show answer

Answer

Social inhibition means that actions performed in solitude are most unlikely to be repeated in front of others for fear of others’ disapproval.

Show question

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