Aim - The aim of Bandura's study was to demonstrate that if children were passive witnesses to an aggressive display by an adult they would imitate this aggressive behaviour when given the opportunity.
1. Children exposed to aggressive models will reproduce aggressive acts resembling those of the models.
2. Children exposed to non-aggressive models will reproduce less aggressive acts.
3. Children will imitate the behaviour of a same gender model to a greater degree than a model of the opposite gender.
4. Boys will be more predisposed than girls towards imitating aggression.
Procedure/ Method - Bandura, Ross and Ross tested 36 boys and 36 girls aged between 37 to 69 months (mean = 52 months).
The method was a laboratory experiment. The design of the experiment has three major conditions; the control group, the group exposed to the aggressive model, and the group exposed to the passive model.
72 boys and girls from stanford nursery school mean age of 4.4
24 Aggressive Condition
24 Non-Aggressive Condition
24 Controll Group
The two experimental groups, which consisted of children who were exposed to the adult role models, were further sub divided by their sex, and by the sex of the model they were exposed to. A summary of these groups is shown below.
The Stages -
In stage one of the experiment children were brought to the experimental room by the experimenter, and the model, who was in the hallway outside the room, was invited to come in and join in the game.
In the non-aggressive condition, the model ignored Bobo and assembled the tinker-toys in a quiet, gentle manner.
In the aggressive condition the model began by assembling the tinker-toys, but after one minute turned to Bobo and was aggressive to the doll in a very stylised and distinctive way.
An example of physical aggression was "raised the Bobo doll and pommeled it on the head with a mallet",
An example of verbal aggression was, "Pow!" and "Sock him in the nose".
After ten minutes the experimenter entered and took the child to a new room which the child was told was another games room.
The Stages - In stage two the child was subjected to 'mild aggression arousal'. The child was taken to a room with relatively attractive toys. 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.
Then the child was taken to the next room for stage three of the study where the child was told it could play with any of the toys in there.
In this room there was a variety of both non-aggressive and aggressive toys.
The child was kept in this room for 20 minutes during which time their behaviour was observed by judges through a one-way mirror. Observations were made at 5-second intervals therefore giving 240 response units for each child.
Results/Findings - The main findings were.
1. The children in the aggressive model condition made more aggressive responses than the children in the non-aggressive model condition
2. Boys made more aggressive responses than girls;
3. The boys in the aggressive model conditions showed more aggressive responses if the model was male than if the model was female;
4. The girls in the aggressive model conditions also showed more physical aggressive responses if the model was male but more verbal aggressive responses if the model was female
Evaluation - Positives
1. 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 behaviour because all variables other than the independent variable are controlled.
2. 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 behaviour of the model and so on.
3. Experiments can be replicated. Standardised procedures and instructions were used allowing for replicability. In fact the study has been replicated with slight changes, such as using videos and similar results were found.
Evaluation - Negatives
Many psychologists are very critical of laboratory studies of imitation - in particular because they are not ecologically valid. 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' modelling which often takes place within the family.
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.
The study has also been criticised for interpreting the behaviour towards the Bobo doll as aggression. Perhaps the children interpreted their own behaviour as play.
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.