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Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961) Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive
Aim: To see if children imitate modelled aggression in a new setting, and to investigate sex differences
based on the principals of social learning theory. Four main hypotheses:
1. Children exposed to an adult behaving aggressively towards a toy will imitate this behaviour in the
absence of the model.
2. Children exposed to a non-aggressive model will show less aggressive behaviour.
3. Children will imitate same-sex models more than opposite-sex models.
4. Boys may be more predisposed to imitate aggressive models than girls.
72 children between 37 and 69 months old
All attended the nursery at Stanford University
Equal numbers of boys and girls
Children were either exposed to the same-sex aggressive model, an opposite-sex aggressive model, a
same sex-non aggressive model, an opposite sex non-aggressive model or not exposed to adult
This gives three independent variables: the sex of the child, the sex of the model and the behaviour of
The children were matched on the basis of their pre-existing levels of aggression, which was rated on
five-point scales by the experimenter and a nursery school teacher before the experiment began.
The dependent variable is the behaviour of the children and this was measured at stage 3 of the
The experiment took place in three stages:
1. Children exposed to adult model (individually). In the aggressive condition the model acted out a
series of pre-planned aggressive acts towards the Bobo doll. In the non-aggressive condition the
model played quietly.
2. Mild aggression arousal where children were briefly shown some attractive toys and then told that
they weren't allowed to play with them.
3. Observation of delayed imitation-lasted 20 minutes while child was in room containing aggressive
and non-aggressive toys and a Bobo doll. Observers watched through a one way mirror and three
measures of imitation were obtained:
Imitative physical aggression
Imitative verbal aggression
Imitative non-aggressive verbal responses (Non-imitative physical and verbal aggression was
Children in the aggressive condition reproduced (imitated) a lot of the physical and verbal
aggression used by the model, whereas children in the non-aggressive and control conditions
showed virtually none of this behaviour.
Children in the aggressive condition also copied the model's non-aggressive verbal responses and
none of the children in the other condition did.
Children were more likely to imitate the same-sex model rather than the opposite-sex model.
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