Bandura and Bobo

This is a photo of an inflatable Bobo doll.In 1961, children in APS Fellow Albert Bandura’s laboratory witnessed an adult beating up an inflatable clown. The doll, called Bobo, was the opposite of menacing with its wide, ecstatic grin and goofy clown outfit.

But when it was their own turn to play with Bobo, children who witnessed an adult pummeling the doll were likely to show aggression too. Similar to their adult models, the children kicked the doll, hit it with a mallet, and threw it in the air. They even came up with new ways to hurt Bobo, such as throwing darts or aiming a toy gun at him. Children who were exposed to a non-aggressive adult or no model at all had far less aggression toward Bobo.

Bandura’s findings challenged the widely accepted behaviorist view that rewards and punishments are essential to learning. He suggested that people could learn by observing and imitating others’ behavior.

This is a photo of a plastic dart.“In many respects, this research helped create the shift in psychology from a behavioristic to a social-cognitive approach to learning,” says Cathy Faye, Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Psychology at The University of Akron. Since Bandura donated his original Bobo doll in May 2010, it has been one of the Center’s most popular exhibits.

Faye notes that the Bobo doll experiments were also influential outside of the scientific community. “Bandura’s findings were particularly important in 1960s America, when lawmakers, broadcasters, and the general public were engaged in serious debate regarding the effects of television violence on the behavior of children,” she says.

Today, questions about violent media and video games linger, so Bandura’s research on aggression remains relevant. His Bobo-inspired social learning theory also contributed to the development of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Bandura is a member of an elite group who received both APS lifetime achievement awards: the William James and James Mckeen Cattell Fellow Awards. He was also named among the top five most eminent 20th century psychologists by the Review of General Psychology. It’s an impressive legacy for a project that began with a little creativity and an inflatable clown.


How can the Bobo experiment be a critique of behaviorism? Children cannot learn from watching unless they have experience, can they? And experience, obviously, is gained through behavior. Behaviorism appears to be merely a version of Russell´s knowledge by acquaintance as opposed to knowledge by description. Whilst description can probably substitute for behavior in a virtual world, it is less likely useful in the real world.

We perceive what we see, is that not an experience where acting out is the result of its cognitive beginning? I would say most people learn from watching, hearing, and doing. While the three are a classroom didactic exercise the other is a practical experience.

I agree with Brian, observation/vicarious learning as represented in the Bobo experiment shapes the behavior we assume will be called for in the future. The behavior is acted out immediately or the experience, our perception of the experience, is molded at that time for future enactment of the behavior, cognitive beginning most definitely.

I can imagine what it was like being one of those children watching the adult kicking and punching the crap out of the doll. Here was the exact opposite of what they had been taught their entire life. It must have been liberating and fun to have free license. Just as you or I might enjoy using a big hammer to smash a wall that has to come down. But not for a moment do I think it leads to aggression or violence. More like catharsis.
If Bandura’s experiments had involved adults hurting cats, I do not believe those children would have imitated that

I DO AGREE With Albert Bandula’s That Man Tend To Imitate The Behaviours Of The Person He Observes Given That In The Social Learning Theory Man Is Bound To Copy The Behaviour Of Those Frequently With Them Hence Parents Adults And Teacher Need To Be Concious Of Their Actions.

I’m a Profesional Clown for 31 yrs. I grew up with that Clown Toy. I liked it. The problem with this Toy is many adults see a Clown as a Thing, not a Person. The symbolism of the Toy can bring out the Dark Side of some adults. “Pseudo Clown O Phobia” as I call it is fashionable. Some Unethical Media Shrinks actually are telling people that they should be scared. This is not about Clowns or Toys. As the Internet came in Junk Science has grown. I’m concerned about turning Clowns into evil characters & and the so-called Psychologists who are doing a major disservice, not just to Clowns but to the Real Science of Psychology.

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