Manic Monday: BoBo dolls and little kids

Bandura’s famous experiment using children and bobo dolls isn’t exactly twisted, but it’s still very interesting.

Albert Bandura was interested in determining whether or not a child exposed to violence would engage in violence. And hey, what better way to figure this out than to use inflatable clowns?

Bandura pushed the social learning theory–observations of others mold social behaviors, especially in children. This makes sense. After all, we learn by observing our parents or guardians, for good or for bad.

66 children were subjects of the bobo doll experiment. Two adult males served as the models, and one adult female served as the experimenter.

The children were brought into a semi-darkened room and made to watch a video on television.

As Bandura’s paper states:


These were the four scenarios:

1. The model laid the doll on its side, punched its nose and said, “Pow, right in the nose, boom, boom.”

2. The model then raised the doll and pommeled it in the head with a mallet. (Talk about showcasing some major violence here…) With each hit of the mallet, the model said, “Suckeroo..stay down”.

3. The model moved on to kick the doll around the room, saying “fly away.”

4. Finally, the model threw rubber balls at the bobo doll, each hit accompanied by “bang”.

The children, by the way, had been segregated into three groups: positive reward, punishment, and no-consequence condition.

For those in the model-rewarded condition:


For those in the punishment condition:


and for those in the no-consequence condition:


After all of this, the children were escorted to the experimental room. Now the fun begins.

The experimental room contained a number of objects, some of which can already be guessed:




And yes, this really happened:


So what do you think were the results?

1. Children exposed to the violent model tended to imitate the exact behavior they had observed, even when the adult was no longer present in the room with them

2. While children of both genders in the non-aggressive group did exhibit less aggression than the control group, boys who had observed an opposite-sex model behave non-aggressively were more likely than those in the control group to engage in violence

3.  Boys who had observed the adult males behaving violently were more influenced than those who had observed the female models behaving aggressively. In the same-sex aggressive groups, the boys were more likely to imitate physical acts of violence while the girls were more likely to imitate acts of verbal aggression. This makes sense, considering girls tend to be more vocally communicative and dole out punishments socially by saying nasty things, while boys tend to be more physically dominant and aggressive and gain social status more by physical power.

And if you want to see a video of the children actually being aggressive:

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