The learning approach- studies

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Bandura Ross and Ross (1961)

Aim:The general aim of this study was to see whether or not children exposed to an aggressive model would imitate the behaviour, not straight away, but a while after it had been observed, even without reward.

Hypotheses:Participants who would see an aggressive model would later reproduce similar aggressive acts to those modelled. Those exposed to a non-aggressive model and the control group would not produce aggressive acts. Control group participants would actually produce more aggressive behaviour than the participants who saw a non-aggressive model, as the latter group is inhibited in their subsequent behaviour. Participants are more likely to imitate same-sex models

Procedure:36 boys and 36 girl in the SU nursery. Matched paris design- similar agression ratings. Split into 3 groups 1.) 24 in the agressive condition 2.) 24 in the non agressive condition 3.) 24 in the control group. Room 1 the model was playing in the corner and the child was not allowed to enter. Room 2 the children would play with the toys and they would then be taken away to ensure that the children are in the same fustrated mood. Room 3 the children are allowed to play freely for 20 minutes whilst being observed.

Results:Children exposed to the aggressive model displayed much more direct imitation than children exposed to the non-aggressive model. In the non-aggressive and control conditions, much less aggressive behaviour was observed, although even in those groups, boys were more aggressive than girls. Watching an aggressive model generally had more of an effect on boys than it did on girls, especially when it was a same-sex model. About one third of those in the aggressive condition also imitated the model’s non-aggressive verbal responses, but no one in the other conditions did so. In general, girls spent more time playing with the tea set and colouring books, whilst boys spent it with the guns. There were no sex differences observed for toys such as the cars or animals. Those in the non-aggressive condition spent more time sitting quietly, not playing than in the other groups.

Conclusions: This study is particularly important because it did not involve any reinforcement of the behaviour, it was all done through observational learning. Even though there was no type of reinforcement present, the behaviour was still imitated

Strengths:The study was set up very carefully with strong controls as a lab experiment, which meant that cause-andeffect conclusions could be drawn as there were isolated and operationalised variables.

There was high inter-rater reliability – there were two judges present assessing the levels of aggression, one of whom had no idea what condition the participant being observed had been allocated (a “blind” procedure which eliminates rater bias); so the findings were reliable

Weaknesses:Whilst the rooms had been set out to look like the rooms at the Stanford nursery, so it might be argued that there was some ecological validity, the study lacked experimental validity – it wasn’t very natural to find an adult deliberately being aggressive towards a Bobo doll

Similarly, the Bobo doll and tools were placed in the room where the children were given time for free play, and those who witnessed the adult models being aggressive towards the Bobo doll may have felt that they had to do the same thing

There are big concerns considering the ethics of the study: at no point during the write-up was there any reference made to the informed consent obtained from their parents; however, it might be assumed that the university had an ethics committee who oversaw the study

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Watson and Rayner (1920) Little Albert

Aim: Watson and Rayner wanted to test whether the principles of classical conditioning would also work in humans. To be able to do this, a reflex action was needed. In babies, one instinctive emotional reaction is fear, so this is what they chose to use as their unconditioned response (UCR). -To see if the fear of an animal could be induced by presenting an animal to a child whilst making a loud noise to frighten the child (classical conditioning)

-To see if that fear could be transferred to other objects

-To see the effect of time on the conditioned response (CR)

Procedure: Laboratory experiment. Albert was chosen as his mother was a wet nurse in a hospital. No fear of animals at 9 months. When a suspended steel bar was hit behind him he cried. Main procedure split into 5 phases. 1- Shown the rat and he reached for it and the steel bar was hit began whimpering. 2- Rat shown unexpectedly and he reached out but did not touch it (some conditioning had occured) Rat shown with and without bar this was now enough for him to turn and cry every time he saw the rat. 3- Still displaying fear the researchers presented him with a rabbit a dog and a santa mask 4- Renewed his fear and then re-presented the dog and the rabbit 5- Tested again showed a negative response to all of the stimuli.

Conclusions: It is possible to create a conditioned emotional response in humans after only a few pairings of the stimuli. It might be necessary to repeat the pairings though to maintain the strength of the conditioned response – i.e. there may be some extinction of the response. A conditioned response may be transferred to other, similar objects and other settings – i.e. there can be generalisation


There were careful controls, and the independent variable was clear and operationalised with the dependent variable being carefully monitored and measured (if the study were more ethical, it could be again repeated to test for reliability).

The study demonstrated Pavlov’s evidence for classical conditioning in dogs and how it could be generalised to humans (although the drawback to this is that the study used only one case study of one particular child)


Lack of ecological validity because there was an artificial setting for Albert and the lab setting may have heightened Albert’s level of fear.

The ‘tasks’ could be argued to lack validity – playing with animals and loud noises are both true to life, but the frequent coincidence of the two is not common.

The biggest concern is the ethics of the study (it could not be repeated today) – there was distress to Albert, and there was no informed consent nor right to withdraw from the study.

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The influence of advertising on peoples behaviour

Using classical conditioning:

UCS(sex) ----------> UCR (arousal)

UCS(woman) + NS (car) ----------> UCR (arousal)

CS (car) ----------> CR (arousal)

Leads to you buying the sar.

Social Learning theory:

We imitate people who are similar to us- If we can relate to the model (ie bad skin) we are more likely to buy the product.

Role models- we imitate people with prestige

Vicarious Learning- Imitate behaviour that is clearly observable. EG a close up of unrinkled skin when using anti-ageing cream

Operant conditioning:

Vicarious reinforcement- If an attractive femal is being rewarded for a behaviour such as wearing a certain perfume we are likely to imitate.

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